Along the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia, where I have chosen to make my home, the resistant bedrock dominates an indented coastline. The rugged inlets and islands seem to defy the elements with impunity and even the great ice sheets, which once scoured this land, have only marginally scratched its surface. Over the years I’ve seen few significant changes. Sometimes a rock pinnacle has unexpectedly tumbled, or a once stable beach dramatically reshaped by the onslaught of a particularly viscous storm. But these are uncommon events, noteworthy only in their rarity. Stability is the norm.
Our human imprint, though, has been much more transient along this forgotten shoreline. Sometimes it seems to change by the hour, certainly by the year. The early settlers sought shelter and forged and fished for a living but, eventually, most moved on. Their scant traces rapidly yielded to advancing coastal spruce. My local barometer of this progression has been the Fury, which I first encountered on a canoe journey around the province in 1980. When its enormous silhouette emerged from the fog, over twenty years ago, the crew had long since gone and it was strangely out of place. On this shoal infested shoreline even the fishing boat had become scarce.
The following year I returned with a group of kids from a summer camp. A small tear on the port side provided access into the cavernous hold, - and the marine equivalent of the haunted house. We scaled up to the deck and searched for ghosts of the past - and for the elusive souvenir. But anything of value had long since been removed. It was still a magnificent structure back then and little had changed since a hurricane, and a faulty rudder, drove it ashore in the mid-sixties. Planted upright on this shoal, only meters from land, it might have been a tourist attraction except for the fact that no roads lead here - and, as most kayakers already know (and appreciate), if you can’t drive there, few will go.
For the past three decades, except for the few local fishermen who barely take notice, the Fury has been mine. It has aged with each season, gently at first, then with rapid abandon. The once modest hole in the rusty-orange hull has expanded as the winter storms gained purchase, fraying the superstructure and twisting the steel plate with unimaginable forces. I have been able to paddle into the hold, and out the other side. The stack has listed and collapsed, and the bow section torn off, freeing the huge boilers, which will remain long after the remainder of the metal skin has disappeared under the surface. A once proud vessel is now lying in tatters, a shadow of it’s former self.
The Atlantic ocean is indeed relentless, and the passage of time inexorable.
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