The 'Old Sow' whirlpool off Deer Island Point is the most powerful one in the western hemisphere, ranking just below some of Europe's most famous ones (Moskstraumen and Saltstraumen in Norway and Corryvreken in Scotland) in the speeds that its waters reach (almost 28 kph or 17 mph). The Old Sow is caused by a combination of fast flowing waters due to the strong tidal action here, narrow channels between islands and an underwater mountain obstruction. Although the whirlpool itself is about 76 m (250 ft) in diameter, the geopgraphy of this part of the Bay of Fundy results in an 11 km (7 mile) wide area of whirlpools, eddies and upswells known as 'the Piglets'. It is believed that the Old Sow whirlpool was named after the sound (called "sough") that water makes when being sucked down a drain hole. Although this is correctly pronounced 'suff', people over the years have changed their pronunciation of it to 'sow' similar to saying that they are 'plough'ing the land.
The intensity of the activity at the Old Sow is strongest about 3 hours before high tide and is also influenced by the New and Full moon cycles. Our timing was not bad, we caught low tide to wade across 'Clam Creek' earlier in the day and now we were at Deer Island Point 3 hours before high tide (it takes ~6.5 hours to vary between high and low). The Old Sow was a living thing as we watched it boil up in different spots, then subside before swirling and bubbling up again in slightly different locations. There were smooth patches of water that looked like the water was being raised by upswelling currents from below. It is not surprising that there is a lot of underwater activity here given that the twice-daily tidal water flow into the mouth of the Bay of Fundy is equivalent to that of all the rivers in the world! This really stirs up the nutrients in these ice-cold waters from the Arctic current, making the area a whale paradise.
Quite a few of the tourists we met on the trip to Deer and Campobello Islands were from the USA. Even though hardly anyone has heard of New Brunswick or Deer Island, the number of American tourists is not surprising because the two most easterly towns in the United States are easily seen from the Island. Both Eastport and Lubec, Maine claim bragging rights to the 'most easterly' title, with Lubec actually being the geographical winner by a hair! Lubec is a quiet little spot, now most renowned for the bridge that links it to the Roosevelt Campbobello International Park on Canada's Campobello Island. This is where former US President Franklin D. Roosevelt spent many of the formative years of his life on the family summer estate as they escaped the heat of New York summers in the early 1900s. As for Eastport, it has transformed itself from a former shipbuilding and sardine town into a somewhat plush summer locale for the well to do. With conversion of its industries to Atlantic Salmon farming and tourist oriented whale-watching tours, this is by far the busier of the two communities, although its population dwindles to less than that of Lubec once the cold months of winter set in.
I had been to both places many years earlier, so was content to just have a look across the border this time instead of taking the regular ferry run from Deer Island to Eastport!
Russ and I had two chances to enjoy the scenes on Deer Island as we biked around the island, on the north and northwest sides on the outward bound journey and along the southeast coast on the return trip to the mainland after we had finished up with our Campobello Island segment. We passed through Chocolate Cove and other small communities on the final day of our bike trip, and it made for a pretty little scene. In the distant background here lies Campobello Island with the East Quoddy Head lighthouse that we visited barely visible on the left side at the end of the point of land.
The second photo was taken on the morning we left Deer Island to catch the ferry to Campobello, showing some abandoned buildings with distant Atlantic Salmon pens in the water. The final photo shows a typical Deer Island shoreline of seaweed covered rocks and mud flats, with the incoming tide still about half-way out, as we neared Deer Island Point for some viewing of the Old Sow in action! I really love these biking trips where we get to peddle along at our lackluster pace, in no big hurry to get anywhere in particular while we just enjoy the various roadside sights!
Deer Island Point is a very scenic little spot on the southwestern tip of the island. Since both a campground and the docking facilities for the Campobello Island, NB and Eastport, Maine ferries are located there, it is the most 'happening' place on Deer Island. The private campsite (contact details below) has 39 sites with electricity and 40 simple ones for tenting - their daily rates are US$22 and US$20 respectively (taxes included). Only cash or travellers cheques (people still use those?) are accepted. They are well set up with a small restaurant, showers, BBQs, fire-pits and short walking trails, in addition to the magnificent views of the surrounding waters.
Russ and I biked out here late on our first afternoon to scout out from where we would be taking the ferry next morning. We relaxed on the tip of the Point itself, beside a small light tower, while we talked to some of the campers who were also just taking in the scenery. This location is right beside the western hemisphere's largest whirlpool - the 'Old Sow', created by the battling currents as the tides ebb and flow. The nutrient rich water is stirred so violently that it is a magnet to all sorts of bird and water life. In addition to the cormorants and ducks floating and diving, we also saw Harbour Seals pop their heads out of the water close in-shore and black-backed Atlantic White Sided Dolphins surfacing further out. It was also interesting to watch the ferries plying back and forth to their destinations.
With the sun shining and just about no wind, we were in no hurry to head back to the 45th Parallel Motel for the night.
That day the fisherman caught approximately 15 tons of herring. Although they called it a half decent day I thought it was pretty darn impressive. If you ever have the opportunity to go Herring fishing, I suggest you take it without a second thought......just make sure your stomach doesn't get uneasy during rough waters!!! I am very grateful to have been able to witness this. It is not something a usual tourist gets to see!!!
During a trip in August/04 to Deer island I went to visit my ex-girlfriends sister and her husband who is a fisherman. After a long night of getting to know each other, he kindly offered to take me and my ex-girlfriend out the next day to watch them bring in their catch of herring. I could not pass up such an amazing opportunity! We kindly and gratefully accepted and prayed for good weather......
Although the Herring are already trapped, a lot of physical labour is required to catch the fish in a net so that the Herring carrier is able to suck them up into his huge bin. This contributed to me realising how hard fishermen work (the other thing was that a fisherman needs to make his work hours according to the ocean tides. No matter if that means going out at 3am!!!). The net was released in a circular manor to catch the most amount of fish. The bottom line had weights attached which caused the net to sink close to the bottom. By pulling a string tight, the bottom of the net was closed and the net was raised. It looked as though they had caught some fish!!! Little did I know how much they had got!!!!
After cleaning the sea weed out of the way and waiting for over an hour, the Herring carrier, it finally arrived. Not knowing what to expect, I was surprised to see the length and size of this boat! It must have been at least 60 feet long. The most shocking thing was that the captain brought the boat directly in the weir, which no doubt took some great navigating abilities! We hopped on this boat and had a birds eye view of how the fishermen did their gruelling work.
I was told that this carrier was ran with a huge CAT engine and that it could hold a total of 39.2 "hogshead" (measurement used by the fishermen to calculate the amount of fish caught). 39.2 Hogshead of fish is approximately 25 tons of fish, or
50 000 pounds of fish!!!!!!!
The two cycle engine was started and we went on out to what would be, the 'very' rough sea. Only a few hundred metres off shore and the waves were already pounding the little boat. I was loving every moment of it!!!! We kept on our way and as we rounded around a little island, we took on a wave......The WRONG way! The water splashed directly over us in the front and landed on our poor captain in back. He did not seem to be bothered and acted like this was normal commenting "this is nothing compared to fall"!!
After about a 20 minute boat ride, we arrived at what the fishermen call a "Weir" (pronounced 'wear'). A Weir is the mechanism used to trap the Herring. It is composed of trees that are pounded into the sea ground which go about 30 feet in the air above sea level. A net is the connected to these trees which forms a circle. There is an entrance which enables the fish to swim in. Although the fish are able to swim out because the barrier is not completely impermeable, it makes it difficult for the fish to escape. The fishermen monitor their weirs and call in the Herring carrier when they think there is a feasible amount of fish.
After a nice night of camping, we met the fisherman @ his home for noon. Expecting to go out in a bigger (50 foot or so) fishing boat, I was shocked when he said that we were taking his "Skiff". A "Skiff" is a small boat (about 12 ft long) made out of fibreglass which uses a small outboard motor. We made our way down to the wharf and jumped in the little "Skiff". With two layers of sweaters and a jacket on we set out to sea to find some Herring (and to get a little wet).
If you have the ressources before hand pack a picnic for the day. The Island has many places that are Ideal for picnics. We chose the Campground on the Island. From there (if you pick the right spot) you can even see what is called the old sow whirlpool. It is a pretty cool whirlpool formed when two currents collide.
A trip to Deer Island can be an afternoon or day trip depending on how you plan it. However, if you can, make sure to drive around the whole Island to see the amazing views.