Monday, November 3, 2014

Acadian Story

Sometime in the early 1600s the people who would be known as Acadians had traveled across the Atlantic Ocean to new and unfamiliar land (Nova Scotia) on a huge bay (the Bay of Fundy). There were people there before them – the Mi’kmaq – friendly Native Americans who apparently felt there was room enough for all.

The Acadians looked around at the land – a mix of thick forests and sea marshes. And watched the tides. None of them had ever seen tides like these. Every 6 hours and 13 minutes the ocean rose or fell – often 30 feet or more. And when they rose, the tides flooded the sea marshes with salt water.

To survive, the settlers would have to either clear the forests or transform the marshes. The Acadians transformed the marshes. They created a system of drainage ditches combined with a one-way water gate called an aboiteau. The aboiteau was a hinged valve in the dike which allowed fresh water to run off the marshes at low tide but which prevented salt water from flowing onto the land as the tide rose. After letting snow and rain wash the salt from the marshes for between two and four years the Acadians were left with fertile soil which yielded abundant crops.

There were other ways to take advantage of the tides. Using branches, the Acadians built huge cages at the edge of the bay. These would be submerged when the tide came in. When the tide retreated, the Acadians would pluck fish (mostly cod) from the weir like picking apples from a tree.

They came, they paid attention, and found ways to create a comfortable life in the new land.

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