Thursday, September 5, 2013

Webcams for Swallow Tail Live

Many thanks to the Village of Grand Manan and Alpha Securities for the web cameras and internet to broadcast the video.

The webcams are accessible on the Village of Grand Manan website:

Follow the instructions for access to the Swallow Tail Webcams. There are three camera views available, a view of the lighthouse (and also the ferries as they pass or any other vessel), a view of Pettes Cove and a view of the top of the stairs (helps for counting the number of visitors!).


Saturday, August 10, 2013

Lighthouse Tours

Swallow Tail and a herring carrier seen from the north along the ferry route.
Now that Swallowtail Keepers Society has a long term lease for the complete Swallow Tail Light Station, we have begun to offer some of the programs we hope to run in the future.  This includes tours of the lighthouse.  These tours are given when our volunteer or student are available and are not offered at all times.  Each tour is personalized and you have a great opportunity to learn a little history of the lighthouse, visit all four levels including the lantern and take some amazing photographs of spectacular views.

People enjoying the view from the Swallow Tail lighthouse lantern deck.

Robyn Guptill's panoramic view from the light house, July 7th.
We will be doing some restoration work later in August and these tours will not be available at those times.  Because we are still raising money for the restoration work, the tours are not free.  A donation is required so make sure you have some cash with you.  You can check at the Welcome Centre if any tours are available on a particular day.

People enjoying both the lighthouse and the former site of the bell house before it was moved to the lighthouse.
People on the former bell house site beside the rock formation that resembles a family and their dog.
Even without access to the lighthouse, the peninsula is wonderful to visit.  Fin and minke whales, harbour and grey seals and harbour porpoises can be seen from the lookouts, as well as many species of seabirds.  Bald eagles and peregrine falcons are common visitors.  Fall migrating land birds often make first landfall at Swallow Tail.  The herring weirs are active this year and you may be lucky enough to see them seine the herring out.
Fin whale off the Intruder herring Weir below Swallow Tail lighthouse in Pettes Cove on August 5

Fin whale off the end of Swallow Tail August 5
Minke whale in Pettes Cove headed toward Swallow Tail July 1

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Fancy Hat Tea - April 20, 2013

The fourth annual Swallow Tail Tea took place April 20 at the Covert Hall in North Head, Grand Manan Island.  The Inn at Whale Cove Cottages organized the food and staffed the tea.
Inn at Whale Cove Cottage owner, Laura Buckley, and her staff organized the food and  worked the tea.    Many volunteers are needed to run one of these events and their efforts are greatly appreciated.
The food, as usual was its normal high standard, wonderful, with a full buffet of sandwiches and sweets.  The weather was probably to our advantage with rain and wind in the morning which prevented many outdoor activities.  Over 70 people attended ranging in age from not quite two to 99.  As usual, takeout was also available.
Part of the Buffet Table with Swallow Tail artwork and photographs

Long view of the Buffet Table in the Covert Hall with sweets and sandwiches.

Part of the Buffet Table with Swallow Tail artwork and photographs

Many thanks to everyone who advertised the event, set up the hall, donated food, worked the tea, and helped with the cleanup.  Sandra Ingersoll won the dinner for two at Inn at Whale Cove Cottages, an annual draw that is part of the cost of the tea. We also sold our first raffle tickets on "Fog Bound" the beautiful Tidal Threads quilt that is nearing completion. These will be available all summer and through the fall.  The draw will be at the Christmas Market.

The money raised will go directly to the restoration of the Swallow Tail lighthouse, the scale of which will vary this year depending on the success or failure of grants to fund the project.  We are hopeful that we will be able to get the majority of the work done.
Many repairs are necessary in the lighthouse including repairing plaster from water damage.  Water is leaking in the tower from the lantern.
Photograph of the Swallow Tail lighthouse from 1932.  The plan is to return two windows above the door  of the tower as well as a third window on the other side.  The lower window can not be returned because of the fog equipment now located there.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Freezing Spray Warning - 1952

I was forwarded from Canadian Coast Guard files, a photo of the bronze fog bell, bell house and lighthouse at Swallow Tail covered in thick ice from a storm in 1952.  Looks much like the photos we took in February 2013 but instead of the fog bell, the fog horn was completely iced in!  Nothing like a muffler of ice.
Icy rime covering fog bell in February 1952 - Canadian Coast Guard photo.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Sneak Preview of Quilt

Tidal Threads, a local quilting group, has volunteered to donate a quilt to Swallowtail Keepers Society.  Each year they select a group or issue and design a quilt that can be raffled as part of a fund-raiser.  Their only requirement is that the cost of the material is covered.  These unique quilts are works of art and this year's quilt is no exception.  If you have been fortunate to see past quilts, you will be aware of the quality of the work and the attention to detail.

The quilt is taking shape and a few photos are included here to give you a sneak preview of the work in progress.  Tickets for purchase will be available soon and will be on  sale until November. The draw will take place at the Christmas Farmers Market.  We hope to raise a significant amount of money to add to the restoration fund, the focus of which will be the lighthouse, although many other small projects with the other buildings are always in the works.

Nancy Estle designed the quilt and is seen here working on it.

Close-up of the centre squares of the quilt based on the Jacob's Ladder design.

Edie Mullen, Nancy Estle, Dawn Locke and Mary Brown discussing finishing details on the corner lighthouse squares.

The quilt is temporarily pinned to show the corner detail of lighthouse, rays from the light, sailboat and whale squares and border detail.  

Edie Mullen, Martha Eaton and Nancy Estle pinning the quilt to see what the overall design will eventually look like.

What the finished quilt will eventually look like.  Pieces are pinned at this point.  The quilt will be hand quilted once everything is stitched together.

Monday, February 11, 2013

London Bridge is Falling Down.....

You get used to something happening that you might not expect when you are the caretaker of a spectacular spot such as Swallow Tail peninsula but loosing a substantial chunk of concrete from under the end of the concrete steps and the beginning of the bridge was not one that we wanted to see.

The concrete steps replaced wooden ones in the late 1960s.  Built by the keeper at the time, Grimmer Ingersoll, and a crew of other able-bodied men, they were designed to be durable and functional, with a ramp on one side to slide items down and hand rails on both sides to protect the user from extreme wind gusts and guide them up or down, day or night.
Morrill and Laurel Ingersoll on the wooden footbridge in 1966.  The former wooden stairs can be seen in the background.  The gate was to keep their rabbits on the peninsula.  Photo from the collection of Hilda and the late Grimmer Ingersoll.
Current concrete stairs with ramp on one side.
The wooden foot bridge spans a gully called the Sawpit which is a mafic dike, a lava flow of iron rich rocks that filled a gap 200 MYA between much older rock of probably 500 MYA.  The foot bridge allowed access at all times to the peninsula and was used by the keepers and visitors since the lighthouse was built in 1860.
Old wooden foot bridge prior to 1922. This was the first of two footbridges at the top of the hill.  This spanned a gully that was filled in 1966, eliminating the need for this bridge. This area is now a parking area and has picnic tables and a bench.  The lower bridge at the foot of the stairs is not in this photo. From a postcard.
The deck of the bridge was replaced in 1996 by the Village of North Head, reusing the existing metal support legs, and has seen its share of weather.  The concrete block kept the rocks in place, provided support for the end of the concrete stairs and for the bridge.  Through many years of freezing and thawing and rocks eroding away, the massive block let go sometime at the end of January and slid down the slope, lodging against one of the metal support legs.
Footbridge with concrete block in place, October 2012

Footbridge with concrete block fallen and lodged against the metal support  leg, February 2013
We are now consulting with structural engineers, trying to figure out how to move the block off the support leg and how to reconstruct crib work or something similar to replace the previous function of the block and repair any damage caused by the collision of the concrete with the support leg.  While this is happening, we unfortunately must restrict access to Swallow Tail as a safety precaution.  We hope this will not be for a long time and apologize to anyone who is inconvenienced by this.

Freezing Spray Warning - Blizzard 2013

If you live along a coast or are a boater you are probably familiar with the weather term - freezing spray - which is usually associated with vessels.  When the air temperature is cold and water hits vessels because of the spray from waves, the water freezing on the vessel and can built up to an extent that it can compromise the stability of the vessel.  The warnings are real and if the conditions continue for any length of time, a substantial amount of ice can accumulate. But you may not have thought about the effects it can have on land when high winds and waves combine to carry the ocean spray onto land.  The same ice build up can occur but is usually one sided depending on the direction of the wind.

On February 9 two major storms combined into one, as one storm moved in from the west and the other up the eastern seaboard, culminating in a storm with hurricane characteristics.  The sustained winds and high tides caused much havoc on Grand Manan, shredding tarps at a construction site, destroying a hangar at the airport, raising water levels beyond the normal high tide, bringing drift wood and rocks up onto land, breaking trees limbs and toppling trees, wreaking havoc with the power lines, and leaving places in the face of the nor'easter, like Swallow Tail, coated in frozen salty brine and looking more like the aftermath of an ice storm, rather than a snow storm.

The following photos were taken the next two days, when the weather had cleared to bright sunshine and calmer seas.

John's bench overlooking the Swallow Tail peninsula

Railing on the deck at the Welcome Centre overlooking the Swallow Tail peninsula

Frozen Swallow Tail peninsula.  Freezing spray coated everything from the north and east, bending trees with the weight of the ice.
Frozen, salty stairs and railings.
Bent tree covered in salty ice at the head of the stairs

Ice coating the railing on the foot bridge.

Ice almost completely covering the railing on the foot bridge on the northern side.

Frozen spray on the safety railing at the head of the stairs.  The railing is red.

Frozen spin drift in the Sawpit.

Looking down into the Sawpit, filled with frozen spary and styrofoam from a floating weir that is breaking up from the extreme wave action.

Frozen spray on the mafic dike of the Sawpit.

Trees bending under the weight of the freezing spray.
Trees covered in freezing spray along the foot path.

Frozen bench, trees and trail.

Balls of frozen spray and an ice coated bench.

Fog bell deck covered in ice.

Layers of ice coating the rope hand rail along the foot path.

Heavily weighted rope rail and ice balls created by freezing spray that completely crossed the Swallow Tail peninsula from one side to the other.

Where did the windows go?  Ice covered north side of the keepers house.

Ice covered eastern side of the keepers house.  Note the difference with the southern, almost ice freeze, side.

Ice covered eastern side of the keepers house and deck.
Ice covered rocks and vegetation.

Ice covered slope from freezing spray.

Can you find the tree under the ice?

Heavily ice-coated  spruce trees.

Don't believe the ice is from sea spray?  Seaweed frozen into the ice near the lighthouse.

Fog horn muffled by a thick coating of ice.

Bell house and lighthouse covered in icy rime.  The spray from the waves extended more than halfway up the tower.  A snow plow driver looking down at the lighthouse during the storm said that the tower completely disappeared from view several times as the waves and spray crashed over the point.  

New version of the wooden lobster-trap bench - ice bench!  Good thing the bench is bolted to the rocks or it probably would have ended up elsewhere.
 It is difficult to gauge the amount of snow that fell.  The wind created huge snowbanks or completely moved the snow elsewhere, leaving bare ground.  Many on the island who experienced the Groundhog Gale in 1976 commented that this storm had the same ferocity with sustained high winds for two days, combined with extremely high tides and storm surge.