Home » Canada » Nova Scotia » Five Story High Tides

Five Story High Tides


Article contributed by: Scott Walking Adventures

Tides on the upper Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia on Canada's Eastern Coast are the highest in the world. Tides here have been measured, according the Guinness Book of Records, at 16.3 meters, or over 52 feet. That's higher than a five story building!

Tides are created by the gravitational pull of the moon. As the moon revolves around the earth it causes large bodies of water to bulge or pull slightly in the moon's direction. This bulge, as it moves around the globe results in the rising and falling of the tides.

The location and shape of the shoreline and the depth of the water in the Bay of Fundy are key reasons that the tides are so high in the Bay of Fundy. The Bay of Fundy is somewhat funnel shaped and quite shallow. Because the water has nowhere else to go, the moon-created water bulge (tide) rises dramatically as it moves along the length of the ever-narrowing 200 mile long Bay. The Minas Basin is strategically located at the tip of the funnel, and so has the highest tides.

Equally important is a resonance that takes place with the rhythmic in-and-out motion of the Fundy tides. It has the effect of amplifying their height. If water moves back and forth in a regular rhythm, as in a bathtub when a child moves back and forth, that rhythm can magnify or enhance the tide's effect. Of course that effect is most dramatic at the upper end of the Bay in the Minas Basin.

The alignment of other terrestrial bodies such as the sun with the moon can affect the amplitude of the tides as well. Accordingly, during a full and new moon, the tides are the highest. And during solstice time period, there is an extra high tide.

The powerful scouring action of the Bay of Fundy tides creates a striking coastline. Consider the erosive effect of 14 billion tonnes of water moving in and out of the Bay twice every 25 hours. It has sculpted spectacular cliffs, sea stacks and caves. They are now much more accessible for hikers and walkers to experience thanks to a recently completed nature coastal trail in Chignecto Provincial Park.

One of the many uniques of the Bay of Fundy tides is the sheer amount of water movement. There is more water flowing in and out of the Minas Basin on the Bay of Fundy at mid-tide than flows from all the rivers and streams in the world according to Dr. Roy Bishop in Wolfville, an expert on the Bay of Fundy. He also says that Nova Scotia bends when the tide comes in as 14 billion tonnes of sea water flow into Minis basin twice daily. In other words, Nova Scotia actually tilts slightly under the immense load.

The movement of the huge tides can cause great currents or rip tides, particularly as they move around peninsulas such as Cape Split near the entrance to the Minas Basin. The water moving past this point each day reaches a speed of eight knots. Observers can hear the roar of the rip tide from the cliffs above. Some refer to the noise as the "Voice of the Moon".

The tides massive erosive action uncovers fossils which are discovered nearly every day. Fossil finds near Parrsboro, Nova Scotia include the fossilized footprints of some of the earliest dinosaurs known to man, and at Hortons Bluff evidence has been found of 350 million year old amphibians. Clearly rockhounds have a field day here.

When the tide retreats, it leaves hundreds of thousands of acres of ocean bottom exposed. This inter-tidal zone is teaming with life and is an essential feeding ground for many birds including migrating shorebirds on their way from the Arctic to southern climes. The sight of hundreds of thousands shorebirds feeding on the small shrimp-like crustaceans in the mud of the exposed tidal zone in late July and early August is impressive. As the tide comes in, the feeding birds cluster in the remaining feeding grounds. When the birds take flight, they offer viewers an aerial symphony that is truly awe-inspiring. Bird watchers from all over the world wander the Bay's shores in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia to witness this unique spectacle.

This strong movement of the tides at the mouth of the Bay of Fundy stirs up food from the ocean bottom which attracts many varieties of whales to feed and spawn during the summer. It is one of the most prolific whale watching locations in North America for Right, Humpback and Finn whales.

The effect of the tides on the rivers running into the Minas Basin is also unique. It creates a tidal bore, or wave, which flows upstream. Where the upstream and the downstream water flows meet there is great turbulence and water plumes that upstream rafters find absolutely exhilerating to navigate.

One way to experience the Bay of Fundy's huge tides and how they have influenced geology, history, culture, geography and flora and fauna is to participate in some of the 6 and 7-day guided walking or hiking tours offered in the area. These adventures will truly allow visitors to understand this fascinating area in depth. Visitors on these tours also explore traditional fishing villages, relax in cosy historic inns, taste lobster and scallops fresh from the sea, and enjoy the warmth of Eastern Canadian hospitality.