The Bay of Fundy, located between the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, is renowned for having the highest tidal range in the world. But how has this happened?
Ste Wright | 4 min read
Twice daily, roughly 100 billion tons of seawater flows in and out of the bay - more than the combined flow of the world's freshwater rivers. But what causes this incredible natural spectacle? Here, we'll explore the unique geological and celestial factors that give rise to the Bay of Fundy's phenomenal tidal range. Read about where the world's highest tidal ranges are.
Tides are primarily caused by the Earth's gravitational interaction with the Moon. As the Moon orbits our planet, its gravitational force pulls on Earth's oceans, creating a "bulge" or high tide on the side of the Earth facing the Moon and another on the opposite side. Different coastal areas experience high and low tides as the Earth rotates.
The unique shape and size of the Bay of Fundy are key to its extreme tidal events. It's shaped like a funnel, with its wide mouth opening to the Atlantic Ocean and narrowing as it goes inland. This means that as the tide comes in, water is funnelled into an increasingly narrow space, causing it to rise.
The true secret behind the Bay of Fundy's tidal prowess lies in the concept of resonance. The length of the bay is such that it matches very closely with the natural period of the gravitational tidal forces caused by the Moon. Just as a child on a swing can go higher and higher with each push if the timing is just right, the water in the Bay of Fundy can rise significantly with each tidal cycle due to this resonance effect. Essentially, the timing of the bay’s natural oscillation aligns perfectly with the tidal forces, amplifying the height of the tides.
The indigenous Mi'kmaq people have a legend that explains the tides in the Bay of Fundy. They believe that the giant whale's tail creates massive waves and tides in the bay. Their historical connection with the bay is rich with such tales, traditions, and fishing practices.
Samuel de Champlain, a French explorer, sailed into the Bay of Fundy in 1604 and established one of the first European settlements in North America on St. Croix Island. The bay became a strategic location for trade, exploration, and colonisation.
The mudflats and shores of the Bay of Fundy are crucial stopover points for migratory birds. One notable visitor is the semipalmated sandpiper. Every summer, thousands of these birds migrate from the Arctic to South America, stopping at the Bay of Fundy to refuel on their journey.
The Bay of Fundy is one of the few places in the world where the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale can be observed. These gentle giants come to the bay for its abundant food resources and relatively safe waters away from heavy ship traffic.
One of the most iconic landmarks in the bay, the Hopewell Rocks or "Flowerpot Rocks," are unique rock formations carved by tidal erosion. Tourists can walk on the ocean floor at low tide and witness the rocks tower over them, then return at high tide to kayak around the very same formations.
In rivers like the Shubenacadie River, which feeds into the bay, one can witness the tidal bore. This is a sudden and strong tidal wave caused by the incoming tide's collision with the river's current. Adventure seekers often go river rafting on these tidal bores for a thrilling experience.
Given its massive tidal range, the Bay of Fundy is an attractive spot for harnessing tidal energy. Annapolis Royal Generating Station in Nova Scotia is one example. It's a tidal power station that has been harnessing the kinetic energy of the bay's tides since the 1980s.
The potential of the Bay of Fundy as a renewable energy source has led to numerous research initiatives and pilot projects. Organizations like the Fundy Ocean Research Center for Energy (FORCE) have been set up to study and develop tidal energy technologies specifically tailored to the bay's unique conditions.
These details showcase the intrinsic connection between the Bay of Fundy's natural wonders and the rich tapestry of life, history, and innovation that surrounds it.
In conclusion, the Bay of Fundy's remarkable tides are a harmonious interplay between the celestial dance of the Earth and Moon and the bay's unique geological form. This phenomenon, a testament to the intricate ways in which our planet operates, makes the Bay of Fundy a must-visit location for anyone intrigued by the wonders of the natural world.