December 2015 issue
Photos: Nova Scotia's wild islands
More images from photographer Nick Hawkins' visit to the island
By Nick Hawkins
From the top of Little Shiprock Island, we could see our assignment. Below us glittered a mosaic of coastal islands amidst the blue waters of the North Atlantic; we had three days to capture this uniquely pristine ocean archipelago.
Unchanged since the last ice age, these islands along the eastern shore of Nova Scotia have somehow managed to escape human development and interference despite their close proximity to the major port city of Halifax.
Capturing the charm of these islands was going to take every piece of photographic equipment we could manage, and we transported the scuba equipment, camping supplies and hundreds of pounds of photo gear onto the beaches of Borgle’s Island, our base from which to explore this diverse landscape.
While beautiful, the land proved challenging to traverse; the twisted trees formed an impenetrable barrier that restricted our travel to the rocky coastline. Ice age glaciers had retreated from the islands over 10,000 years ago, scouring giant ridges into the bedrock and profoundly affecting the islands’ developing ecosystems.
The unprotected south-facing coasts hinted at a violent history of hurricanes and storm surges that left a barren habitat of crowberry heaths and rocky beaches where rare plants took root. Kettlehole bogs formed in the protective depressions left by glacial melt, and a prehistoric landscape of carnivorous plants now thrived atop the spongy peatland. Massive stones as big as cars lay strewn about, left behind by retreating glaciers, their rough granite surfaces decorated with colorful sunburst lichens.
Within the islands’ protected areas grows an ancient coastal rainforest, nourished by the abundant rainfall and maritime fog. Dense stands of stunted conifers erupt through a thick carpet of mosses and ferns, and an almost tropical diversity of color lies beneath the waters surrounded the islands.
Aquatic life is everywhere. Silver sided sand lance, important baitfish for whales and seabirds, schooled in the shallow waters all around. Massive lobsters roamed the ocean floor like armoured vehicles on patrol. A flounder lay motionless, camouflaged among the growth.
The experience was a reminder that true wilderness still remained to be explored – and protected.
All photos: Nick Hawkins/Canadian Geographic
Americam mink on Little Shiprock
Island. The semiaquatic members
of the weasel family are common
flounder camouflages amongst
the algal growth in the shallow
waters off Borgel's Island.
lobster in defensive posture in the rich
shallow waters of Borgel's Island. The
islands have supported a productive
fishery for lobster, considered to be some
of the highest quality in the world.
crab shells left by feeding birds on
Little Ship Rock Island
sunburst lichen covers the
dramatic rock formations of Little
Shiprock Island at sunset.
green and brown seaweeds of the
intertidal zone during lowtide on
tolerant plants growing on the
exposed bedrock of Middle Island
massive glacial erratic, boulders
transported by melting glaciers,
photographed on Middle Island.
and colorful green seaweed on
toad forages at night along a beach on
Middle Island. Note: image is a single
capture made by changing the focus
point manually during long exposure.
intertifal zone and lowtide during
sunrise on Middle Island.
clear waters reveal sandy ridges
created by wave action off the
tombolo beach connecting
Borgel's and Middle Island.
cover vegetation and sphagnum
moss in the bogs of Borgel's
carnivorous northern pitcher plant,
photographed on Borgel's Island.
repeated evaporation of sea
water produces intricate salt
crystals along the rocky coastline
of Borgel's Island.
Mushroom growing in the
coniferous forest understory of
Island boasts a large west facing
cliff said to be used by vessels for
Shore forest represents a dynamic
boreal coastal rain forest of spruce and
fir, heavily influenced by forest insects,
diseases and a harsh, storm wracked
climate. Photograph from Shelter Cove.
wetland scene from Clam
view of small rockey islet showing
view of Outer, Middle and Borgel's
view of foresta and wetlands near
Clam Harbour Provincia Park.
|Comments on this article||Leave a comment|
Kathy: NS Tourism will load you up with maps and info, but Highway #7/Eastern Shore from Halifax will take you there... all the way down the coast to Cape Breton. Try this link tourist info/help. http://www.threeshoresnovascotia.com/eastern-shore
These photographs are absolutely stunning - 'almost' as wonderful as being there on the Eastern Shore. This is Nova Scotia's "Last Best Place"
A number of the wildlife were called Amercan, did originate from the US. or were they discovered there?
Are there boat tours of the islands, and what route would a person drive to see the coastal areas? Could you send me tourist info? My extended family lives in Halifax, thankyou
Welcome to my world. As owner of Murphy's Camping and Scenic Boat Tours, I have been sharing these islands with my guest from all over the world and like these pictures, they continue to remind me how lucky we are.
These pictures are beautiful. However, the Parks Canada map is for Wapusk National Park of Canada in MB near Hudson Bay not NS?
Hmm... a bit confused by the map link - the article says the photos are of Nova Scotia, but the map is of Manitoba ...?Great photos, though - can practically smell the loamy forest floor in that one of the mushroom.
Thanks for your comments! Yes, the tall plants are northern pitcher plants. If you have any questions you can send them to through my website -www.nickhawkinsphotography.com.
Josie: it's called a pitcher plant it lures bugs and eats them
The tall plants are known as pitcher plants, by us locals. Not sure what the "real" name is.
Nick: Thank you for these amazing photos! I live in the area, and really love it.
Especially liked the photo of the goosegrass (an edible green) and all our beautiful rocks I am sharing this with my contacts. Thanks again. Are you from Jeddore, by any chance?