Bay of Fundy

From Academic Kids

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The Bay of Fundy, shown on the coast of North America

The Bay of Fundy is a bay located on the Atlantic coast of North America, on the northeast end of the Gulf of Maine between the provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. A small portion of the northwest corner of the bay's coastline fronts the US state of Maine. The name "Fundy" is thought to date back to the 16th century when the Portuguese referred to the bay as "Rio Fondo" or "deep river".

The bay was also named Baie François by explorer/cartographer Samuel de Champlain during a 1604 expedition led by Pierre Dugua, Sieur de Monts which resulted in a failed settlement attempt on St. Croix Island.

The Bay of Fundy is known for the highest tides in the world.



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The Bay of Fundy at high tide
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The same location at low tide

Folklore in the Mi'kmaq Nation claims that the tides in the Bay of Fundy are caused by a giant whale splashing in the water. Oceanographers attribute it to tidal resonance resulting from a coincidence of timing: the time it takes a large wave to go from the mouth of the bay to the opposite end and back is the same as the time from one high tide to the next.

The quest for world tidal dominance has also led to a pseudo-rivalry between the Minas Basin in the Bay of Fundy and the Leaf Basin in Ungava Bay (located in Nunavik - Arctic Quebec) over which lays claim to the highest tides in the world, with supporters in each region claiming the record.

The Canadian Hydrographic Service finally declared it a statistical tie, with measurements of a 16.8 metre tidal range in Leaf Basin for Ungava Bay and 17 metres at Burntcoat Head, Nova Scotia for the Bay of Fundy.[1] ( It should be noted that Leaf Basin has only been measured in recent years, whereas the Fundy system has been measured for many decades. Tidal experts note that Leaf Basin is consistently higher on average tides than Minas Basin, however the highest recorded tidal ranges ever measured are at Burntcoat Head, and result from spring tides measured at the peak of the tidal cycle every 18 years.

Tidal electrical power generation

Several proposals to build tidal harnesses for electrical power generation (see electricity generation have been put forward in recent decades. Such proposals have mainly involved building barrages which effectively dam off a smaller arm of the bay and extract power from water flow through them.

One such facility exists, a dam and 18 megawatt generating station on the Annapolis River at Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia, but larger proposals have been held back by a number of factors, including environmental concerns. The Annapolis Royal Generating Station has been studied for its various effects, including an accelerated shoreline erosion problem on the historic waterfront of the town of Annapolis Royal, as well as increased siltation and heavy metal and pesticide contamination upstream due to lack of regular river/tidal flushing. There have also been instances where large marine mammals such as whales have become trapped in the head pond after transiting the sluice gates during slack tide.

Damming a large arm of the Bay of Fundy would have significant and not well-understood effects both within the dammed bay itself and in the surrounding regions. Intertidal habitats would be drastically affected and a facility would bring the bay closer to resonance, increasing tidal range over a very large area. One effect could be an increase in tidal range of 0.2 m (from approximately 1 m) for certain coastal sites in Maine, possibly leading to flooding.

There have been proposals in recent years for installing aquanators, the underwater equivalent to windmills, which would not require any damming or blockading of parts of the bay but would instead generate electricity solely by being placed in areas of high water flow, such as at chokepoints or merely along the floor of any part of the bay which sees signficant water movement.



The upper part of the bay bifurcates, splitting into Chignecto Bay in the northeast and the Minas Basin in the east. Chignecto Bay is further subdivided into Cumberland Basin and Shepody Bay and the extreme eastern portion of Minas Basin is called Cobequid Bay.

Cape Chignecto, Nova Scotia defines Chignecto Bay whereas Cape Split, Nova Scotia defines the Minas Channel, leading to the Minas Basin.

The lower part of the bay is also home to four important sub-basins: Passamaquoddy Bay and Back Bay on the New Brunswick shore, Cobscook Bay on the Maine shore, and the Annapolis Basin on the Nova Scotia shore.

Geography around the Bay of Fundy
Geography around the Bay of Fundy


The bay is home to several islands, the largest of which is Grand Manan Island at the boundary with the Gulf of Maine. Other important islands on the north side of the bay include Campobello Island, Moose Island, and Deer Island in the Passamaquoddy Bay area. Brier Island and Long Island can be found on the south side of the bay while Isle Haut is located in the upper bay off Cape Chignecto. Smaller islands and islets also exist in Passamaquoddy Bay, Back Bay, and Annapolis Basin. The Five Islands, in the Minas Basin, are particularly scenic.


The bay receives the waters of several rivers, including:

New Brunswick

Nova Scotia

The bay's extreme tidal range causes several interesting phenomena in the various rivers which empty into it.

The Saint John River sees its flow reversed at high tide, causing a series of rapids at the famous Reversing Falls where the river empties into the bay, located in a gorge in the middle of the city of Saint John.

Rivers in the upper Bay of Fundy have a smaller flow-rate than the Saint John, and a shallower slope. As a result, extensive mud flats are deposited throughout the tidal range of the rivers.

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Tidal bore

Another phenomenon which occurs in these rivers of the upper bay is a "tidal bore", whereby the river flow is completely reversed by the rising tide. One of the better examples of a tidal bore can be seen on the Shubenacadie River near the town of Truro where local ecotourism operators offer the chance to experience rafting the bore upriver. Another good example of a tidal bore may be viewed on the Salmon River in the town of Truro. The once-famous tidal bores on the Petitcodiac and Avon rivers have been severely disrupted as a result of causeway construction in the 1960s-1970s which have caused excessive siltation.


The largest population centres on the bay are the New Brunswick cities of Saint John and Moncton.

The New Brunswick towns of St. Andrews, Blacks Harbour, and Sackville as well as the Nova Scotia towns of Amherst, Truro, Windsor, Wolfville, Kentville, Annapolis Royal, and Digby are also located on the bay.


The Bay of Fundy comprises a tremendously abundant marine ecosystem. Its cold waters contribute to large quantities of krill and other small animals which in turn attract whales such as the endangered North Atlantic Right Whale as well as Humpbacks, Minkes and other cetaceans.

Migratory birds also use the bay as a stopping point, or as a breeding ground. In August of each year, the migration of millions of sand pipers on the mud flats of Shepody Bay delight thousands of naturalists. Peregrine falcons and bald eagles also make their habitat in the high cliffs which surround the bay. Various sea birds such as the Atlantic puffin, Common tern, and others can be found.

The bay supports a successful commercial fishery for lobster, scallops, sea urchins, and herring. Commercial aquaculture operations raise Atlantic Salmon, largely in Passamaquoddy and Back bays.

Certain aspects of the Bay of Fundy ecosystem are still poorly understood, for example, the role of intertidal organisms such as Corophium volutator in the marine food chain. The Bay of Fundy Ecosystem Partnership (BOFEP) is a joint research group of several universities studying the Bay.

Ports and shipping

The port of Saint John is one of the busiest ports in North America, owing to its concentration of pulp and paper industry and the largest oil refinery in Canada. Hantsport, Nova Scotia on the Avon River is also home to a pulp and paper mill and is the shipment point for raw gypsum exports to the United States. The ports of Bayside, New Brunswick (near St. Andrews) and Eastport, Maine are important local ports.

A result of heavy shipping traffic has been the potential for increased collisions between ships and the North Atlantic Right Whale. In 2003 the Canadian Coast Guard adjusted shipping lanes crossing prime whale feeding areas at the entrance to the Bay of Fundy to lessen the risk of collision.

The bay is also traversed by several passenger and automobile ferry services:

fr:Baie de Fundy


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