1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Sable Island

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SABLE ISLAND, an island of Nova Scotia, Canada, 110 m. S.E. of Cape Canso, in 43° 56' N. and 60° W. It is composed of shifting sand, and is about 20 m. in length by 1 m. in breadth, rising in places to a height of 85 ft. In the interior is a lake about 10 m. in length. At either end dangerous sandbars run out about 17 m. into the ocean. It has long been known as “ the graveyard of the Atlantic ”; over 200 known wrecks have been catalogued, and those unrecorded are believed greatly to exceed this number. The coast is without a harbour and liable to fogs and storms; irregular ocean currents of great strength sweep round it, and its colour makes it indistinguishable until close at hand. Since 1873 an efficient lighthouse system and life-saving station has been maintained by the Canadian government, and the danger has been much lessened. Since 1904 it has been connected with the mainland by wireless telegraphy. The island is constantly changing in shape, owing to the action on the sand of wind and wave, and tends to diminish in size. Since 1763, when taken over by Britain, it has shrunk from 40 m. in length to 20, from 2½ in breadth to 1, and from 200 ft. in height to 85; since 1873 the western lighthouse has thrice been removed eastward. As this makes navigation still more dangerous, the Canadian government has planted thousands of trees and quantities of root-binding grass, and the work of destruction has been somewhat stayed. Wild fruits grow plentifully during the summer, and cranberries are exported. Wild ducks, gulls, and other birds nest in large numbers, and a native breed of ponies has long flourished.

Sable Island, estimated as being then over 100 m. in length, was known to the early navigators under the name of Santa Cruz. Early in the 16th century horses were left on its shores by the Portuguese, and the native ponies, supposed to be their descendants, are still exported. In 1598 a band of convicts were left by the marquis de la Roche, but in 1603 the survivors were restored to France.

See Rev. Geo Patterson in Transactions of Royal Society of Canada (1894 and 1897).