Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Winter of 1888 / The Azorian

Today is another snowy day in Annapolis Royal. Since the start of 2009, we seem to be having about one day per week where we lose a portion of the day to a storm. While this has become a bit annoying, it is far from the worst winter that we have had. Even within recent memory, the nor-easter known locally as White Juan, which struck in February 2004, left far more snow. That storm, which was named after hurricane Juan which struck Nova Scotia earlier in the year, left somewhere in the region of 80cm of snow on Annapolis Royal. I can remember standing in the middle of the Granville Road and being waist deep in snow.

I felt that I should also dig into the Annapolis Heritage Society archives to produce some proof that we have had worse winters. The winter of 1888 may be the worst on record. That year the waters of the Annapolis Basin not only froze solid, they froze to a thickness of 17 inches (43 cm). For those of you unfamiliar with the Annapolis Basin, I should stress that having the water freeze solid is a very uncommon occurrence. While the water may freeze temporarily, it is unusual for this ice to survive the next tide. Since we have about 30 feet (just over 9 meters) of tide in Annapolis Royal, the turbulence of the moving water rarely allows for a solid ice pack. The top image, taken in 1888, is of the Annapolis Royal waterfront as seen from Granville Ferry. Note the two boys and a dog standing in the middle of the ice pack.

In 1888 the Basin did indeed freeze. The ice was so thick that the steam ship Azorian was frozen solid for four weeks. During this time, the ship had its cargo of coal unloaded and a new cargo of apples loaded. All of these goods were sledded over the ice to the waiting ship with the help of teams of oxen.

All for now,

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