Sunday, December 7, 2014

Tick, Tock: Clockwise around Bell Island

The forecast all week long looked good for Saturday and when it arrived is was a jewel of a day.  Brian, Dean, Terry and I settled on a circumnavigation of Bell Island.  We arrived at St. Philips at 9:00 under clear blue skies, totally calm winds and a temperature of -7C.

As we exited the harbour we pointed our bows towards Bell Island which lay 5 kms distant.  Just over 40 minutes later we were ...

... at Dominion Pier where iron ore was loaded onto ships for transshipment, mainly to Nova Scotia.  Oolitic hematite, iron ore in scientific parlance, was first recognized in 1578 but serious mining consideration didn't take hold until 1892.  The first small shipment of ore was made to Halifax in 1895.

I've paddled around Bell Island several times before but always counter-clockwise from Dominion Pier.  For the day's paddle I suggested a clockwise circumnavigation. I expected the scenery to look different and hoped for new unexpected discoveries.  Leaving Dominion Pier the massive cliffs extend into the far distance.  Before long we were at ...

... Scotia Pier.  In addition to Dominion Iron and Steel Company operating at Dominion Pier, Nova Scotia Steel and Coal Company operated at Scotia Pier.  The iron ore was mined from two principal beds, underground extending up to three kilometers out and under the sea.  The iron ore mines closed in 1966.  The death knell for the mines was the discovery of large deposits that could be mined more cheaply by open pit.  There is, however,  still recoverable ore in the range of 3.5 - 10 billion tons left on the island.

Since then both piers have succumbed to the elements.

Two days before it rained hard.  It came down in buckets.  The cold weather since formed ice falls where the water poured off the land.

Not all the water was frozen however.  Here the sun formed a miniature rainbow in the cascading water right in front of Dean's bow.

Like I said, the rain came down n buckets and was still running two days later.

As Chimney Rock came into view we saw two eagles perched on top.  By the time I got close enough to get a picture they ha flown away, but not my three kayak comrades.

Here we paddle into a cove dominated by "The Clapper".  That's the part the rings the Bell.

As we paddled all along the cliffs the rising sun warmed up the dark rocks and everywhere bits of ice fell off to splash into the sea.  Here, the sun hadn't swung south far enough to shine its light on the wall of ice so it survives in the shade, for the time being.

This is "The Bell" where we made our turn north.  As we paddled through we paddled into the shadows and felt the difference in temperature.  Even though it was cold, the glorious sun warmed us and we felt just how much when we were under the shadow of the cliffs ...

... so we paddled offshore a bit to stay in sunshine as we headed north.  As we did the huge piles of tailings from the mine added vertical height to the land

There aren't many places to land along the west side of Bell Island but Big Cove is one spot and conveniently about half way at 19 kms of our circumnavigation.  It was cool to say the least as the cove was in shadow under the 200 foot tall cliffs.  We were hungry so, in the absence of other options, this is where we had lunch before continuing.

I'm giving away the plot of the second part of the day; Dean some shots on his blog.

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