Saturday, September 13, 2008

Going with the flow on the Fundy Coastal Drive

Nice Article from the Calgary Herald. Ms. Olsen certainly hit the high spots along the Fundy coast. Nice article.
 
Debbie Olsen
For the Calgary Herald

Timing
is everything along New Brunswick's Fundy Coast, but fortunately there
are moments in life when time is on your side. One of those moments
happened when we visited the world-famous reversing falls in St. John,
N.B. Although we hadn't taken the time to check the tidal charts, we
were fortunate to visit at high tide and see the fascinating phenomenon
of water flowing backwards up the falls.

There is no place on
earth where the difference between high and low tide is as great as it
is in the Bay of Fundy. In most places in the world, normal tide levels
are in the range of one or two metres, but in the Bay of Fundy, tides
average more than 10 metres. The highest tides can be found in Minas
Basin, where tides have been recorded at 16 metres higher than at low
tide. These tides create fascinating natural phenomenon that are found
nowhere else.

The best way to experience Fundy's tides is via New
Brunswick's 391-kilometre Fundy Coastal Drive. You can complete the
drive in about five hours, but it takes longer to really appreciate the
remarkable geological formations, scenic coves, lighthouses, and
beaches along the way. We spent two days just experiencing the section
from Saint John through Fundy National Park.

The scenery is
constantly changing along this drive and whales and other wildlife are
abundant. What may be a peninsula at low tide becomes an island at high
tide. Certain sites only exist during high or low tide. You'll want to
see the reversing falls during high tide, but walking on the ocean
floor near the Hopewell Rocks can only be done at low tide. Other
sites, like tiny fishing harbours, are usually more attractive at high
tide. Here are a few highlights of the drive.

St. Stephen

The
Fundy Coastal Drive begins or ends at St. Stephen depending upon which
direction you drive. Known affectionately as "Canada's Chocolate Town,"
Ganong Bros. Ltd. set up shop in 1873 and is now Canada's oldest
independent candy maker. There is a chocolate factory and museum and an
annual chocolate festival to enjoy in St. Stephen.

St. Andrews-By-The Sea

The
charming town of St. Andrews has historic sites, ocean-based activities
and attractions, shopping and fine dining. It is best known as the home
of the Fairmont Algonquin Hotel and Golf Resort. Built in 1889, this
resort is perched on a hill overlooking the town and is known to locals
as the "Castle-By-The-Sea." The golf course has received many awards
and the nearby Kingsbrae Garden, an 11-hectare horticultural garden,
has also received national acclaim.

Saint John

The oldest
incorporated city in Canada has much to offer visitors, including
shopping, dining, nightlife, museums, art galleries and attractions.
The most famous of these attractions is the reversing falls, a
phenomenon created when the force of the rising water in the Bay of
Fundy causes water to flow up a series of rapids in the Saint John
River against the flow of the current and seemingly against gravity.
You can enjoy observing the falls from scenic walkways and overlooks
that have been built along the edge of the river or get your adrenalin
going by experiencing a speedboat ride through the falls.

Fundy National Park

Established
in 1948, Fundy National Park was the first national park in New
Brunswick and remains one of two national parks in the province. It
encompasses some of the last remaining wilderness in southern New
Brunswick and there are more than 120 kilometres of walking and hiking
trails that lead through the valleys and mountains of the Acadian
forest to scenic waterfalls and streams. Interpretive programs run
during the summer months and there are campgrounds, playgrounds, a
swimming pool, golf, tennis and lawn bowling in the park.

Hopewell Rocks Park

If
you have ever wanted to walk on the ocean floor while appreciating
fascinating rock formations, Hopewell Rocks Park is the place to go.
You can walk underneath the world-famous flowerpot-shaped rock
formations at low tide or kayak around them at high tide. The park is
open from mid-May to mid-October. For more information, visit:
thehopewellrocks.ca.

Debbie Olsen is an Alberta-based freelance travel writer and mother of four.


© The Calgary Herald 2008

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Tidal turbine spot found

Location near Parrsboro in Bay of Fundy eyed for electricity project




Chris Roper reads pamphlets at the Seaeye booth near a Cougar XT remotely operated vehicle Tuesday at the Canadian Underwater Conference and Exhibition in Halifax. (CHRISTIAN LAFORCE / Staff)



It has been quite a challenge, but scientists believe they have found the ideal spot in the Minas Basin for three underwater turbines that will use tidal power to generate electricity.

However, powerful Bay of Fundy currents have destroyed expensive tidal monitoring equipment used in the quest to find the best spot.

"We have broken two (current meters), so we have about $100,000 in destruction so far," said Simon Melrose, who runs Oceans Ltd., in Nova Scotia.

The ocean research and offshore weather monitoring company also has offices in Newfoundland.

Last year, the Nova Scotia government announced successful bidders who will put pilot demonstration turbines in the Bay of Fundy in the spring.

Mr. Melrose, an expert in ocean applied science with Oceans Ltd., is carrying out oceanography for the tidal project for Minas Basin Pulp and Power. The Hantsport firm won the contract to build a tidal energy test facility, a large part of the project that includes designing and operating a structure to receive electricity from the turbines and process data.

Scientists have been busy searching for a level spot for the turbines about 40 to 50 metres underwater, where the tide flows in a linear direction instead of swirling in numerous directions, Mr. Melrose told the Canadian Underwater Conference and Exhibition in Halifax on Tuesday.

To date, scientists involved with the project have made about five boat trips to the Bay of Fundy to collect data.

The preferred site "hasn’t been confirmed, so it is provisional site," he said. "It is to the west of Parrsboro, to the northwest of Black Rock. That is the area we are looking at. We are trying to be within two to three kilometres of the shore."

Scientists with the project have found the currents are moving much faster in the Bay of Fundy than thought, which could mean more electricity if the energy can be harnessed.

"If you look at the charts, (the currents are) six to seven (nautical miles per hour) and we are seeing peaks of up to 11. It may be that particular site has too much for technology at this point and we have to push further back into less vigorous sites."

Scientists cannot put the turbines in the many areas of the Bay of Fundy where large rocks are moving underwater that can damage the turbines or in areas where the sea floor is moving and swirling.

"If you are putting down a structure, you ought to put it down onto a base that is solid," Mr. Melrose said. "At the same time, we don’t want to have to excavate, drill or anything else because it is very expensive."

The data was last collected on the Bay of Fundy in the 1970s, when tidal monitoring equipment was not as sophisticated.

"New technology does allow us to look through the water column and measure all the different layers, but you still have to get (equipment) into the water and out of the water, and that has been the challenge. It has proven to be expensive in terms of damage, and it has been proven a challenge to get clean, tidy, crisp data.

"We are winning, but it has been quite a project so far."

Work has progressed to the point that an application will soon be made to the provincial and federal governments for permission to proceed. That request will trigger the environmental review process.

The successful bidders who will test turbines include: Nova Scotia Power, which has teamed up with Ireland’s OpenHydro; Minas Basin Pulp and Power Co., which has teamed up with UEK Hydrokinetic of Maryland; and Clean Current of British Columbia.

( cmellor@herald.ca)