Leaf Bay ready to claim highest tides

Too close to call, DFO says



Nunavik is set to claim the title of world’s highest tide from the Bay of Fundy — even though the Department of Fisheries and Oceans insists the race is too close to declare an official winner.

The Nunavik Tourism Association said it would issue a press release this week confirming a 16.1-metre tidal measurement at Leaf Bay, which lies just outside of Tasiujaq.

The measurement, taken on March 31, 2002, is one centimeter taller than the highest ever recorded at the Bay of Fundy.

According to the Guinness Book of World-Records, the world record tide measured in at 16 metres at the Bay of Fundy in 1960.

Allen Gordon, executive director of Nunavik’s Tourist Association, said he received a letter from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans confirming the Tasiujaq high tide “as extreme.”

But the Bay of Fundy coast, shared by Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, has long claimed the title of the world’s highest tide and it doesn’t look like the DFO will hand the title to Nunavik any time soon.

“What they’re basically saying is it’s a tie with the Bay of Fundy. Though we have a record high tide recording here, they say the Bay of Fundy tides are generally higher over the year,” Gordon said.

Nunavik has been trying to wrestle the title away from Nova Scotia for several years. In 1998, Nunavik Tourism contracted an oceanographer to perform tidal measurements in the area. The scientist set up three submersible tidal gauges near Tasiujaq, Leaf River and Radisson Island.

Though the tourism association said it had a record-breaking reading after the tests, nothing ever came of the announcement.

Ron Solvason, regional tidal officer for the DFO’s Canadian Hydrographic Service, said it is almost inevitable for debate to arise over the designation. In fact, he reported the Leaf Bay tidal measurement as 16.2 metres.

Many elements affect the precision of a tidal measurement, he said, including the accuracy of the instruments used.

Tides at the Leaf and Fundy bays are calculated with the help of underwater gauges. The gauges rest on the sea floor and as the tide rises the gauges measure the amount of water pressure above them.

Scientists then take the maximum pressure above the gauge and convert that pressure into a tidal height measurement. The method is accurate to within 0.4 metres — but the range of error is greater than the difference between the Leaf Bay and Fundy measurements.

Which is why scientists prefer to look at the potential tidal range of an area over a length of time and not a single measurement, Solvason said.

Yet, in the fight between Leaf Bay and the Bay of Fundy, the results may always be too close to call.

“For all intents and purposes the maximum tidal ranges at the two bays are very comparable,” Solvason said. “We’re still looking at one more record but right now it looks like the range for Leaf Bay is 16.8 metres and the Bay of Fundy is 17.2 metres….”

Though the DFO may not strip the Bay of Fundy of its coveted title, the village of Tasiujaq has no qualms about taking the crown.

“The government that released the information on the Bay of Fundy spent too much money — probably trying to protect their people,” Willie Cain, the mayor of Tasiujaq, said this week. “But our Tasiujaq has a .1 higher measurement than the Bay of Fundy. We’ll be able to say, ‘We hold the title for the highest tide.’”

Cain said having the title will help develop Tasiujaq’s economy, and the village is already considering how to market the natural wonder.

“The Qallunaat have an appetite for visiting places of significance so we can expect more tourism,” Cain said.

And what is good for Tasiujaq is great for Nunavik as a whole, Gordon said.

“It’s another attraction for the region. It’s like having the world’s largest caribou heard, or having Crater Lake, which is the world’s clearest lake,” Allen said. “So if someone says what’s up there? We have a list of things.”

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