Seal Island (Nova Scotia)

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Seal Island (Nova Scotia) is located in Nova Scotia
Seal Island (Nova Scotia)
Seal Island in Nova Scotia

Seal Island (also known as Great Seal Island) is an island on the outermost extreme of Southwestern Nova Scotia, Canada, and is the second southernmost point of land of Nova Scotia. The southern tip of nearby Cape Sable is 250 m farther south than the southern tip of Seal Island. It is located in Municipalité Argyle Municipality in Yarmouth County. It is approximately 2.7 miles long and 0.5 miles wide. It is the biggest of a group of five islands which extend north for 7.5 miles.[1] It is the southernmost place in Nova Scotia.

History[edit]

During the American Revolution, Noah Stoddard's vessel the Scammell was commissioned in April 1782. Soon after, he rescued the 60 American prisoners on board H.M.S. Blonde, who were stranded on Seal Island after hitting Blonde Rock, Nova Scotia. Stoddard allowed the British crew to return to Halifax.[2]

The island was settled in 1823 by two families from the Barrington area, the Hitchens and the Crowells. They used the island as a fishing base and provided shelter to survivors of the many ships wrecked at the island and on nearby reefs. A campaign led by Mary Hitchens resulted in the construction of a lighthouse in 1831 which still stands, one of the oldest wooden lighthouses in Canada. Seal Island lightkeepers continued to rescue many shipwreck victims, most notably in 1843 when they saved all the crew and passengers of RMS Columbia, one of Samuel Cunard's first ocean liners.

The Seal Island settlement eventually contained two small villages, The East Side and The West Side. They shared a post office, church and a lobster cannery. Year round habitation ceased in 1990 but both villages host summer residents, most of whom are families who once lived on the island. The West Side village is used by fishermen and bird watchers who bunk in the old cookhouse above the government wharf and has seen recent growth in the form of new sheds and fishermen's houses. The East Side has lost its wharf but retains a church used for a seasonal service.[3] It is home to the Seal Island Lighthouse which is the oldest wooden lighthouse in Nova Scotia and one of the oldest in Canada. The lighthouse was de-staffed in 1990. Lack of maintenance and poor ventilation of the lighthouse by the Canadian Coast Guard have raised fears about the condition of the historic structure.[4]

There is a local legend of a ghost from a shipwreck in 1891, the SS Ottawa. A stewardess named Annie Lindsey was believed drowned when her lifeboat overturned. She was buried beside the East End church where her grave marker can still be seen today.[5] but some believe that when the coffin was later disinterred, it showed evidence that she was buried alive. Her spirit is said to haunt the Seal Island villages to this day.

A replica of the Seal Island Lighthouse can be seen in Barrington, Nova Scotia.

A replica of the Seal Island lighthouse

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 43°24′56.1″N 66°0′37.4″W / 43.415583°N 66.010389°W / 43.415583; -66.010389