considering Fundy

I’ve been in thrall to the Bay of Fundy ever since I decided (in about 1970) to do my dissertation research in Nova Scotia. In 1972 we moved into a house at Horton Landing, right on the very shore of an arm of the Bay, where the tides were 35+ feet and the low-tide mud was a distinctive red-brown. The energy of Fundy truly boggles any mind that considers it, and people have been scheming schemes to capture that energy since, well, pretty much forever. The First Nations folks who were the first inhabitants of the landscapes around the Bay told stories about the Beavers who tried to dam Fundy, and the culture hero Glooscap who smashed their dams; and so it is with any later folk who have tried to steal Fundy’s energy: turbines are crumpled, silt is deposited in unpredicted places, and sadder and wiser Beavers retreat to scheme again. Will those tides ever be “harnessed” or will Glooscap return to sort things out?

On the latest trip to Nova Scotia we stopped at the Clarence Gosse Bridge over the Shubenacadie River, a structure with its own tales of Beaver hubris. Built in 1979 and an early example of its type (a pre-stressed concrete box girder bridge, the two sections meeting in the middle, said by some to be “the world’s first cantilever bridge”), by the early 1980s its smooth curve was disrupted by subsidence at the center join –the engineers hadn’t reckoned with the sheer power of the tides and/or the depth of the mud. There’s a thump from every wheel that crosses.

From the observation point on the river bank one sees the power of Fundy in several ways. There’s a tidal bore that attracts rafters and kayakers (though I’ve never seen it there myself), and the old piers of the (now-vanished) railroad bridge are impressively eroded. At low tide you see almost nothing but red mud with a trickle of the Shubenacadie at the very bottom; just before high tide the incoming river is impressively wide. This trip I looked down and saw the swirling of mixed silty and clearer waters, and tried to capture it with the camera:

This view doesn’t do justice to the energies involved, being static and pretty muddy too, so I did a bunch of fiddling with the image, changing it to monochrome, upping the contrast and definition, generally trying to tease out the patterns I saw. This version is a bit more eloquent in revealing the profundity of the flux of energy:
…and incidentally vindicates any amount of post-processing. It’s still a photograph, still tells a story and roils the mind.

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