About 50 people gathered at the Fundy Geological Museum today to share stories, memories and photos after the collapse last week of the Long Island arch at Five Islands.
Tim Fedak, director/curator at the museum welcomed everyone including Don Reid, keeper of the cliffs at Joggins and Eldon George, whose fossil discoveries put Parrsboro on the geological map.
“It’s why we love this area,” Fedak said. “Every time we go down to the cliffs, we see something we’ve never seen before.”
He explained that the Long Island arch collapse goes all the way back to events that were happening 200 million years ago when the supercontinent Pangea split apart and volcanoes spewed molten basalt through the widening fissures in the Earth’s crust.
As the rock cooled and hardened, earthquakes and shifting tectonic plates caused huge sections to grind against each other and a thin layer of clay got caught in between.
“Geologically, it’s called a slickenside,” Fedak said. “It becomes a weak zone when the time is right and that’s where the whole cliff failed and collapsed on the slippery spot of this old fault.”
Power of the tides
He said the arch itself was created by the erosive power of the tides also wearing away at weak spots.
No one knows for sure when the hole first started to appear, but someone brought a 1936 photo showing Long Island without its now-famous arch.
Eldon George said he remembers going through the arch twice in a rowboat during the 1940s, but it was so small then, he could touch its roof when he stood up in the boat. Over the years, the hole expanded steadily.
“It was impressive how large it was,” Fedak said. “Forty-five feet tall. That’s pretty amazing.”
He pointed out that the rubble left after the collapse is also about 45 feet high. He warned people to stay away from it because loose boulders could come crashing down at any time.
When did it happen?
Someone suggested that Five Islands resident Gordon Meekins heard a big crash at 3 a.m. on October 19th, the date of the federal election when Nova Scotia voters created their own Liberal landslide.
But when reached by phone at his home later, Meekins said no one on shore heard anything that night because the wind was blowing the wrong way.
He said the big collapse was foreshadowed by a smaller one that happened on September 28th.
“I was down to Blue Sac, me and the wife, just before dark the night before (the big collapse), to see if we could get a better look at it where it fell in the first time,” he said.
I told the wife, I says ‘Oh well, I’ll bring the boat up this weekend and maybe we’ll take a drive out and see how much fell in.’ I’m setting there and telling her, I said, ‘I wonder if I’ll live long enough to see that hole gone.’ Now, the next morning it was gone.”
Meekins said it was quite a coincidence.
“Yes it was, I said ‘Geez, I hope that’s not a bad omen.’”
Jo-Ann Hunter of Five Islands said she’ll miss the Long Island arch.
“Everyone is sad about this,” she said remembering that after people ran through the arch in the first Not Since Moses run in 2007, runners from all over the world started coming to participate.
“Dick Lemon (owner of Long Island) has promoted it throughout the world,” she said adding, “It’s sad that the hole’s gone. We’re just missing the hole. Don’t know if I’m going to get used to it or not.”
Exhibit on Fundy’s changing shores
Tim Fedak says the museum is considering creating an exhibit on the collapse.
“I think this is a great opportunity for people to be contributing photos and stories and paintings and historical photos that have Long Island in the background and we can try to reconstruct what happened to that island and how it’s been changing over the course of time.”
He added the exhibit could either be online or in the museum.
“It really is an opportunity for people to share their observations of the changing landscape which is really what the Bay of Fundy is all about,” he said. “This whole shoreline is constantly changing and we are having a great opportunity to watch it happen.”
Fedak says one big change happened last week when a storm surge wiped clean one of the cliffs at Wasson’s Bluff exposing what look like the limbs of a new dinosaur specimen.
“I’ll be doing some work over the next week to collect that material,” he said.
“It could be that I’ll just do a little bit of work and save the major collecting for next spring.”