Nova Scotia
Bay of Fundy

Burntcoat Head

Burntcoat Head
Seeks Good Tidings

Tests may help Nova Scotia
hold on to Guinness high-water mark

By Brian Rau
The Halifax Chronicle-Herald

9 June 1998

The site of the world's highest recorded tide will be put to the test over the next 12 months when a device used to measure tides is installed at Burntcoat Head, Nova Scotia.

The tide along this Hants County bluff , which juts into Noel Bay in the Minas Basin, rose to a record 52.6 feet 16.0 metres when last measured by the Canadian Hydrographic Service in 1960. It is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the highest recorded tide.

But other communities along the Bay of Fundy, and even one in northern Quebec, have also laid claim to being home to the world's highest tide.

A tide is the change in shoreline sea depth due to the gravitational influences of the Sun and Moon. It is not a sudden or dramatic event with great walls of water, but a gradual occurrence.

"It's important that Nova Scotia retains the distinction of having the world's highest recorded tides and we hope to prove this again at Burntcoat," said Charles McCulloch of Noel, chairman of Burntcoat Head Park.

Accounts of the world's highest tides happening elsewhere have annoyed locals who want the record set straight once and for all.

A group from Leaf Lake, Quebec, for example, recently wrote the Guinness Book of World Records, claiming their tide reached 16.76 metres 55.0 feet but Mr. McCulloch said the figure was disputed.

"When they sent their documentation in, their graphs only went up to 50 feet. They pencilled in the remaining feet so the Guinness people wouldn't accept it," he said Monday (8 June 1998).

Across the Minas Basin from Burntcoat Head, signs advertise Parrsboro as having the world's highest tides, but according to tide tables, Parrsboro doesn't even rank in the top ten. After Burntcoat Head, the tide table lists Five Islands, Colchester County, Nova Scotia, 15.7 metres 51.9 feet; Belliveau Village, New Brunswick, 15.1 metres 49.8 feet; and Hantsport, Hants County, Nova Scotia, 14.9 metres 49.5 feet.

Tides in the Hants County communities of Walton and Windsor are also estimated to be higher, though they have not been measured officially.

After years of lobbying, Mr. McCulloch said he has finally convinced the Canadian Hydrographic Service to remeasure the tides at Burntcoat Head. Tides are normally only measured at busy ports to minimize danger to shipping.

"The equipment will be installed next week and allow the tides to be measured for a year," he said.

An avid promoter of the local tourist attraction, Mr. McCulloch said a special pressure gauge will be located inside the park's lighthouse and will be connected by a pipe down over the bank and out to low water.

"It has to be under water about two feet at all times and buried in sandstone and concrete so ice cakes won't rip it in winter," he said.

Glen King, tidal assistant with the Canadian Hydrographic Service in Dartmouth, said the rough conditions at Burntcoat, especially during winter, will make measuring the tides a challenge. "It will be interesting to see the results," he said, noting the equipment being used is worth about $20,000.

There are only short-term records of tides in the upper Minas Basin. "The longer period of analysis at Burntcoat will provide more precise data about the different effects and heights of the tide," Mr. McCulloch said.

The recording of the tides, as well as the addition of a new deck and steps winding down to the water from the park's lighthouse should make Burntcoat an even more popular tourist attraction this summer. "Last year we had more than 3,500 visitors sign the book. This year we're hoping for more than 10,000," said Mr. McCulloch.

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Latest revision: 1998 June 16