June 6th, 2011 was a calm day on the ocean. Liz, Marc and I took advantage of the calm seas to paddle around Marr's Head a few km offshore of Lower Prospect, NS. Half-way to Peggy's Cove, Marr's head marks the final resting place of the SS Atlantic; the White Star Lines first major maritime disaster.
According to the article on the SS Atlantic on Wikipedia:
"On 20 March 1873 the Atlantic departed on her 19th voyage from Liverpool with 952 people on board, of whom 835 were passengers... At 2:00 a.m. local time on 1 April 1873, the Atlantic struck an underwater rock called Marr's Head 50 metres from Meagher's Island, Nova Scotia. Lifeboats were lowered by the crew but were all washed away or smashed as the ship quickly filled with water and flipped on its side. Survivors were forced to swim or climb ropes first to a wave-swept rock and then to a barren shore. Residents of the tiny fishing village of Lower Prospect and Terence Bay soon arrived to rescue and shelter the survivors, but 535 people died, leaving only 371 survivors."
Leaving from East Coast Outfitters boathouse in Lower Prospect we made our way through what is locally known as Hell's Gate just beyond Roger Power island and the rocky area called the Hospital. Normally these would be rather inhospitable waters, but with under one meter swells and light winds there wasn't a whitecap to be found. As we rounded the corner, the fog lifted just enough to get a quick peek at the Betty's Island Lighthouse. We headed up past the window and along Mosher island, towards Marr's head.
Marc took a few detours along the way trying to find any little swell, or waves to play on, but there wasn't much to be found. It was a treat to paddle past the beautiful granite coastline made famous by Peggy's Cove. As we got close to Marr's head our calm paddle was interrupted by large breaking waves. What had been less then one meter of swell was resulting in breaking waves around 2.5 meters due to the local bathymetry. It was easy to see why Marr's head was is dangerous. Marc took advantage of the waves and headed around the head for a little bit of fun while Liz and I paddled in the protected waters between Mosher island and Marr's head. As we paddled past it was sobering to think of the lives lost that fateful morning on April 1st, 1873.
After we rounded the corner it was smooth paddling all the way back to the dock. An amazing day, and just one of the many paddling destinations around Nova Soctia rich with maritime history.