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Cape Sable Island

cape sable islandCape Sable Island is the most southern part of Nova Scotia and is the home of the famous Cape Island Boat or “Cape Islander” as the locals refer to it as. First built by Ephraim Atkinson at Clark's Harbour in 1907, today the design is a standard for small boats that require high stability and efficiency in the North Atlantic. A typical Cape Islander is 11.5 m (38ft.) long, with a 3.5 m (12ft.) beam. It draws little water, sitting right on top of the surface and is used primarily in the lobster fishery. Cape Sable is a small, low sandy island with trees stretching for about 3.5km (2 miles). Off each point is a ledge, one extending nearly, 4 km, another nearly 5 km. As the tide ebbs and floods across these ledges, strong breakers result.

Since 1676, shipwrecks in this area have been common. Some ships suffered only minor damage, while others were a total loss including all their crew and passengers. After 1800 wreck documentations have been quite complete.

Cape Sable Light

lighthouse postcardPetitions had been made for a light at Cape Sable for some time. However, not until the wreck of the Hungarian, a Canadian mail steamship from Liverpool, England en route to Portland, Maine, did the government take action.  Her loss on the Cape Sable ledges on February 20, 1860 took over 200 lives and brought about the construction of the first Cape Sable Light, completed in November 1861. In 1876 a steam-whistle fog alarm was added. Since that time ships have continued to run aground in the foggy and rough seas but loss of life had been low.

lighthouseBy the 1980's the light was automated so no one lived there and the keepers house was demolished. Today, the Cape Light is Nova Scotia’s tallest lighthouse, standing 101 feet tall. The Island is uninhabited; except for the few sheep that reside there today and occasional summer residents.

A yearly event is planned to celebrate the Cape Sable Lighthouse – Cape Days. Boat rides to the island are held throughout the day, to let visitors explore this magical island themselves. This year, Cape Days is held August 8.

Transportation Link to Cape Sable Island

ferryBuilt in Shelburne in 1938 by W.C. McKay & Sons, the Joseph Howe Ferry was 80 feet long and 25 feet wide. Equipped with life saving gear, life boats and fire equipment, the Joseph Howe served people between Cape Sable Island and Barrington Passage, and often had to run through heavy currents as the tides changed daily.

on board ferryThe talk of a causeway began in 1945 when the Provincial government started surveys. In 1946, Premier Angus L. MacDonald announced an appropriation of $400,000 for its construction.

causeway constructionOn August 29, 1948 the first load of rocks was dumped and the construction began. It was thought because of strong tides, the work would be long and difficult. However, with the use of modern machinery, the fill was made much sooner than expected, and on April 29, 1949 the North East Point shore was reached. On Sunday, May 1, 1949 over 100 cars crossed the 3100 foot causeway which had been built at a cost of approximately $600,000.