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  • WHERE IS NOVA SCOTIA AND WHAT IS IT LIKE?

    Location: Nova Scotia lies east of Maine. As the Atlantic Ocean comes up the coast of New England, it forms a huge body of water called the Bay of Fundy, with land on both sides. Maine and New Brunswick are on the western side of the bay and Nova Scotia is on the eastern side.

    Nova Scotia is almost completely surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and only a tiny piece of land connects it to mainland Canada, so it is almost an island. A big part of the province, called Cape Breton Island, IS an island. There is no place in Nova Scotia where you are more than 56 kilometres (35 miles) from the sea. And because our shoreline is very long -- nearly 7,500 kilometres (4,700 miles) -- there are many bays and inlets along the coast.

    Halifax, our capital city, is just about half-way between the equator and the north pole (45 degrees latitude). Some American cities are just as far north; for example, Portland, Oregon and Minneapolis, Minnesota. Technically, Nova Scotia is located between 43 and 48 degrees north latitude and 57 to 59 degrees west longitude.

    By air, Halifax is 670 kilometres (420 miles) northeast of Boston; 1,350 kilometres (850 miles) east of Toronto; 2,000 kilometres (1,250 miles) east of Chicago; and 4,500 kilometres (2,800 miles) across the Atlantic from London, England.

    Size: Nova Scotia is not the biggest province in Canada, but it is not the smallest. It is twice the size of Massachusetts, just a bit smaller than Ireland, and two-thirds the size of Maine or Scotland. It is 575 kilometres (360 miles) long, and is on average about 130 kilometres (80 miles) wide. Its total land area is about 53,000 square kilometres (25,000 square miles).

    Seasons: Our winter is not very cold, with temperatures usually ranging from minus 15 to plus 4 degrees Celsius (+5 to +40 degrees F). We get some snow, but not nearly as much as Maine or New Brunswick. Our spring is sometimes very cool, with temperatures averaging between six and 15 degrees (42 to 60 F). Summers are mild, with temperatures in the 16 to 25 (60 to 80 F) degree range, and it is unusual for it to go above 30 (86 F) degrees, especially if you are close to the Atlantic Ocean (which stays cool all summer long). Because of this, many tourists come from hotter parts of the U.S. and Canada to escape the heat and enjoy some fresh air and cool sea breezes -- especially in the evenings, when temperatures usually range from 17 to 22 (64 to 74 F) degrees.

    Peaks and Valleys: The highest parts of the province are on Cape Breton Island: White Hill Lake is 530 metres (1,742 feet) above sea level. Cape Breton is very hilly, much like the Smoky Mountains (in fact, its highest peak is called Cape Smoky). The hills look even higher because they are right next to the ocean. The mainland of Nova Scotia also has two long ridges, the North and the South Mountains, which run over 160 kilometres (100 miles) along both sides of the Annapolis Valley, on the western side of the province from Windsor to Digby. In places, the North Mountain rises over 225 metres (750 feet) above sea level.

    The lowest lands in the province are actually below sea level and they are also in the Annapolis Valley. Huge dikes hold back the sea and create thousands of acres of farmland, as in Holland. The area around Wolfville, Canning and Grand Pré are good examples of this, where vineyards and North America's oldest apple orchards flourish. Much of the middle and upper parts of the province are rocky highland plateaus and the scenery reminds many people of Scotland.

    Lakes: Nova Scotia has thousands of lakes. Our biggest National Park, called Kejimkujik (usually pronounced here as kedge-im-a-kou-gic, with the accent on the 4th syllable), has hundreds of lakes and is a very popular place to go canoeing and camping. Our largest lake is the Bras d'Or Lake (locally called 'bra-door' lake, with the accent on the second syllable), on Cape Breton Island. Bras d'Or means arm of gold and it is an unusual lake because it is salt-water. In fact, it is the largest salt-water lake in North America.

    Forests: Most of Nova Scotia is quite rocky, just like northern Maine or New Brunswick, and it is covered with forests of maple, birch, beech, poplar, spruce, fir, hemlock and pine. It is very beautiful in the fall. We grow thousands of Christmas trees here -- some say the very best in the world. Some non-native trees such as magnolias, yews and rhododendrons also thrive here.

    Size: Nova Scotia is not the biggest province in Canada, but it is not the smallest. It is twice the size of Massachusetts, just a bit smaller than Ireland, and two-thirds the size of Maine or Scotland. It is 575 kilometres (360 miles) long, and is on average about 130 kilometres (80 miles) wide. Its total land area is about 53,000 square kilometres (25,000 square miles).

    Sand and Sea: Because our province is almost an island, we have many fine gravel and sand beaches. The ocean water is cold, but it is warm enough for swimming in July and August (and sometimes early September). In the summer, the water on the Atlantic coast is usually about 19 degrees (67 F). On the north shore of the province, along the Northumberland Strait, the water gets warmer, sometimes as high as 22-23 degrees (72-74 F) in August. The water in the more shallow parts of the Minas Basin (at the top of the Bay of Fundy) also warms up to 20-21 (68-71 F) degrees.

    The Minas Basin has the highest tides in the world. Here the tides usually rise and fall more than 10 metres (33 feet) every 12 ½ hours, which means the water is rising or falling, on average, more than 30 centimetres (a foot) every 12 minutes, every hour of every day. When there is a full moon, it rises and falls even more. At certain times, the tide rushes in like a wave (sometimes nearly a metre high) -- this wave is called a tidal bore. By contrast, the normal difference between high and low tide along the rest of the east coast of North America is about one metre (three to four feet). Our tides are one of the natural wonders of the world. (Click for a tide chart.)

    One town on the Minas Basin, Hantsport, has a tugboat and a dock for very large ships. At low tide, the water level is so low that the tug just sits on the sand. In all the rivers around the Minas Basin, when the tide is coming in the water is going upstream instead of downstream. It is quite amusing to watch ducks who were floating down the river, go floating up the river as the tide comes in. Then a few hours later, they come floating back down again.

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