Nova Scotia’s Historic Lighthouses

As Nova Scotia's lighthouses crumble and fall into disrepair, so to does a piece of the province's history. Here's how you can see, and save, these iconic landmarks

"In a country where waterways were early roads, lighthouses played an enormous role,” says Barry MacDonald, President of the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Protection Society (NSLPS). “They are beacons of our maritime past.”

But with modern automation, the historic structures are at risk.

“In the age of GPS navigation, the importance of lighthouses is downplayed,” says MacDonald. “And with shrinking Coast Guard budgets, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans have no mandate for maintenance of these heritage sites.”

Two examples from the NSLPS’s “Doomsday List” of threatened lighthouses lie off the southwest tip of Nova Scotia, a vital—and perilous—area since the outset of maritime activity in Atlantic Canada.

Seal Island, North America’s oldest operating wooden lighthouse, currently sits leaking, with rotten shingles and peeling paint. The operational Cape Sable Lighthouse—the tallest in Nova Scotia—is succumbing to concrete decay.

Time Left

Seal Island and Cape Sable are but a few structures in imminent peril. Without care, many East Coast lighthouses will crumble, or be sold to unsympathetic real estate investors over the next decade.

See It

Seal Island Tours offers overnight trips from Clark’s Harbour, Nova Scotia. The NSLPS also hosts a guided trip to Seal Island each summer.

Save It

“We would love for the public to contact their MP to voice their concern and support of the Lighthouse Protection Act (Bill 220),” says MacDonald. Check out nslps.com for more info.

This story was originally published in the June 2007 issue of up! magazine as part of the See It Before It’s Gone feature, profiling 11 of Canada’s must-see natural and man-made tourist attractions on the brink of extinction. Take a look at more of Canada's Endangered Destinations.

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Nicole Pointon

Nicole Pointon is a freelance writer and communications professional based in Victoria, B.C. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications, including 360 magazine, The National Post, BC Outdoors and Motion magazine.

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