Georges Island (Nova Scotia)

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Georges Island Photo: Jeff Vienneau

Georges Island (named after George II of Great Britain) is a glacial drumlin and the largest island entirely within the harbour limits of Halifax Harbour located in Nova Scotia's Halifax Regional Municipality. The Island is the location of Fort Charlotte - named after King George's wife Charlotte. 'Fort Charlotte was built during Father Le Loutre's War, a year after Citadel Hill (Fort George). The island is now a National Historic Site of Canada.[1]

History[edit]

Fort Charotte on Georges Island

The island was originally named île à la Raquette which means Snowshoe Island. For a brief time, the Island was known as île d'Enville, named after the leader of the great Duc d’Anville Expedition who was buried on the island for a number of years. In 1749, the island was named "George Island" after King George II, and then finally, in 1963, it was renamed "Georges Island".

Upon the arrival of Edward Cornwallis and the outbreak of Father Le Loutre's War, fortifications were established on Citadel Hill (Fort George) (1749) and Georges Island (Fort Charllotte) (1750).

Monument to Imprisoned Acadians at Bishops Landing, Halifax, overlooking Georges Island

During the Seven Years' War, two thousand French sailors were imprisoned on the island after the British victory in the Battle off Cape Race, Newfoundland.

During the war, Fort Charlotte was one of four forts where Acadians were imprisoned over the nine years of the Expulsion of the Acadians(the others were Fort Frederick, Saint John, New Brunswick; Fort Cumberland; and Fort Edward (Nova Scotia)). The Acadian prisoners in the vicinity of Halifax were subject to various degrees of confinement and dependence upon victualization, without the right to own land, continuously, from 1759 to 1768. According to historian Ronnie Gilles-LeBlanc there were approximately 1660 Acadians held prisoner on the island during the deportation (1755-1763), with a maximum of 600 prisoners at one time.[2] Many Acadian men in the region were occupied with road building, fisheries, wharf building, and wood cutting, and lodged close to where they worked.[3]

During the American Revolution the 84th Regiment of Foot (Royal Highland Emigrants) were stationed at the fort to protect the harbour from American Privateers.

Georges Island was part of the "Halifax Defence Complex" from the mid-18th century to the Second World War, with Citadel Hill and Fort Charlotte on the island being restored by Parks Canada. For nearly two hundred years Georges Island was the scene of constant military activity. Tales of executions, forts and hidden tunnels surround the folklore associated with the mysterious island. It had an Island Prison Camp, a Look Out Point, an Acadian Prison camp, and a Quarantine Station.

Today[edit]

Although not yet open to the public, its fortifications named Fort Charlotte are currently undergoing restoration by the federal heritage department. Parks Canada has announced that they hope to open the park to visitors within the next 3 to 5 years (by 2012 - 2014). In March 2009, the federal government designated $3.5 million to install water, sewer and electrical services on the National Historic Site over the next year. “This would be the first step towards opening the island,” said Carla Wheaton, Parks Canada cultural resource manager. “Following that, we would still need to construct visitor facilities, such as washrooms (and) possibly a visitors’ centre.” For now, anyone wishing to visit must have permission from the Canadian Government. Georges Island is known to local fisherman to have lots of blueberries and black garter snakes [1]. The "Great Offshore Picnic" takes place once a year on Georges Island. The island is part of Halifax Regional Municipality District 12. In addition to the ruins of Fort Charlotte, the island also has Georges Island Lighthouse. The Canadian Coast Guard operates an unmanned radar station commissioned in 1977.

Georges Island viewed from Halifax, with McNabs Island in the background

See also[edit]

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Coordinates: 44°38′27″N 63°33′35″W / 44.64083°N 63.55972°W / 44.64083; -63.55972 (Georges Island)