Last Sunday my husband and I took a short boat ride to Georges Island (btw it drives me crazy that it’s not spelled with an apostrophe), which is now a Parks Canada site. We’ve been meaning to do this for a while, and so as part of my birthday weekend, off we went! The weather was nice in the morning once the fog cleared, and didn’t really change to cloud and showers until we were waiting for the ferry to take us back across the harbour to where we’d parked (we love parking in Dartmouth and ferrying over rather than paying for parking and driving downtown).
Georges island has played a part in the defences of Halifax since the mid 18th century… before then it was home to the Mi’kmaq for thousands of years. In its early years, the British used it as a prison for Acadians who were being deported – something I didn’t know before and was shocked to discover. Over 1000 Acadians were held – including children – while waiting deportation by the British.
Fort Charlotte was built there in the late 18th century – Prince Edward named it for his mother – and over the years (19th century) modifications were made to include a tunnel system and massive rifle muzzle-loading guns (the one pictured required 70 lbs of powder for a single shot!). In WW1, submarine nets extended across the harbour from Georges Island each night – in fact, the Mont Blanc entered the harbour the morning of December 6, 1917, because it had arrived too late to enter the evening before; the nets had already been put in place. The resulting explosion between the Mont Blanc and the Imo is the backdrop for my historical fiction coming next year, WHEN THE WORLD FELL SILENT.
In WW2, an anti-aircraft unit was stationed on the island, and they were the last soldiers to be stationed there. It’s been a national historic site since 1965.
I am not a huge fan of tight spaces or being underground, but I did do the tunnel tour and it was not nearly as bad as I anticipated. Ventilation was necessary as well as holes for natural light since black powder was stored in the magazine (the big room in the collage). We also got to see the firing of the noon gun at Citadel Hill…and the boom that echoed a few seconds after. The brick building in the collage is the married quarters (small, with only 2 bedrooms, a sitting room, and a kitchen!), as well as one of the massive guns and the lighthouse. Our tour guide was lovely and the boat to and from quite nice…but then I’m pretty happy when I’m on the water anyway.
We returned to the Halifax waterfront, and then went for a delicious lunch at the Bicycle Thief and dessert – I had my first Beavertail (which is a flat pastry shaped like a beaver tail and then topped with deliciousness)!
There is so much history outside our own back doors. I’m glad I finally got to explore this one a little!