Connections

Sable Island has been the focus of human interest and activities for over three centuries. Mapmakers, settlers, fishermen, mariners, shipwreck victims, lifesavers, naturalists and scientists, prospectors, educators, students, artists, journalists and visitors have explored, survived, studied, and otherwise experienced Sable Island—directly, with toes in the sand, or from a distance. For many, their fleeting or long-term encounter with the island was memorable—tragic, perplexing, inspirational, mildly interesting, inconvenient, educational, life-changing, joyous. And through these people and their work, adventures and misadventures, connections with the island extend beyond them and into the lives and communities of others who may not have touched or been touched by Sable Island.

In this series of “Connections”, special moments and lasting impressions are shared by people who have experienced Sable Island first-hand or have a distant, but enduring, relationship with the island.

  • So, 9 years later, I’m on a flight returning from Portugal. After hours of looking from my window seat at the vastness of the Atlantic, something shining, small and crescent-shaped, caught my attention.

  • Two weeks on Sable Island … a universe contained enables a heart to open Boundless : holding the complexity of being so awake to the magnificent wonders of existence, and to the plastics that wash ashore.

  • I arrived on Sable Island in winter 2013—it was certainly like no where else I had ever experienced. I got off a helicopter and one of the first things I was told was: don’t step too close to the seals.

  • It was January, probably 2001, when I first visited Sable Island. I arranged to drop in for two days to do a series of stories about the island for the Toronto Star. But the island had other plans for me.

  • My grandfather, Daniel Brennan 1865-1950, was the first registered male child born on Sable Island. The family lived on the island while my great grandfather was with the staff of the life-saving service.

  • One day someone said something about an island of horses, an island of wild horses. I might have been five or six, but after that I waited and I waited, and eventually the name of the island appeared.

  • When my first attempt to visit the island was cancelled (rains washed out the runway) I wrote about all I dreamed of seeing on Sable. Months later, the words came to life when I finally arrived - magical.

  • By the end of the month, I felt so immersed in the rhythms of this island environment, where the forces of nature seemed barely influenced by humans, that I felt humbled, and didn’t want to go home.

  • As the plane descends, I can see dark shapes twisting and turning in the turquoise. But for the lack of trees, I could almost believe this crescent shape was home to talking birds and tiny pied fish.

  • In 2017, I worked on Sable for the Met Service as an Aerological Observer. A favorite experience was a radiosonde balloon launch in relatively high winds when there was a storm ripping up the east coast.

  • The Ipswich Sparrow, Sable Island’s endemic songbird, named for the place where it was first discovered in Ipswich, Massachusetts, just a few miles from where I first saw my first, but a century before.

  • I lived on Sable Island for three months, working for the Meteorological Service. I’d never had a desire to visit the island, as so many people do, but fell in love with the place during my time there.

  • I was a Met Tech on Sable Island in 1978-79—a 13-month stint, then one month off, and then another 11 months on the island. I had arrived, green as grass and wide-eyed, thinking, “What have I done?”

  • My dream came true when I shared an incredible day on the island with my sister and five dear friends. Long after, the emotions of being so wonderfully overwhelmed by the experience still brings tears.

  • Over 50 years ago, I was in Grade 7 or 8 when I found a story on Sable in a school textbook, an Ontario Primary School Reader. I could not have imagined the impact this short story would have on my life.

  • My family's connection to Sable Island began almost fifty years ago when we lived at the West Light while my father was employed there as an electrician. In 2008 I returned to the island for a brief visit.

  • As a child I was fascinated by my godmother’s painting of Sable Island and the story she told of the dunes and shipwrecks. A family friend, Barbara Christie, engaged me with stories of the island’s horses.

  • From the awesome power of the late-night lightning, to the confused and lost Myrtle Warbler that hopped onto my boot while absorbed in his search for food, my memories of the island hold a hint of magic.

  • I remember vividly how the seals would swim inside the crest of a breaking wave, moving silhouettes that seemed to roll as they swam, faster than human swimmers, in their bright tunnel of water.

  • Going back several years, Peter Carver, Red Deer Press, asked me to illustrate a story about saving the horses of Sable Island. This led me on the path to one of the most rewarding experiences in my life.

  • As a teenager, I entered a public speaking competition with a Sable Island story. One of the judges was the well known Canadian artist J. D. Lawley—he had sketched some Sable horses as I spoke.

  • In 1967, I began research on the Ipswich Sparrow. The next summer, my wife Bernice assisted me, and with our three young children, we set up home in the unused radio operators’ house at the West Light.

  • The sun drops from sight; stars appear in the darkening sky. First a few, then dozens upon dozens and more and more until the entire universe is ablaze—the Milky Way sprawls, shooting stars streak past.

  • Flying in over the west spit, the grand expanse of south beach, and the tiny weather station compound, it feels like arriving at an outpost, even though mainland Nova Scotia is only 1:15 hours away.

  • Over the six days on Sable, I completed 20 watercolours. With each image I can recall the time and place—the wind, the smell, the lay of the land as I crested along the dune tops or circumvented the ponds.

  • Thoughts of the past keepers of the island, the lighthouses, and the many rescues, captured my imagination, and in that instant I simply got out my paints in an attempt to express this reflective moment.

  • I had the most wonderful experience with Acadian on one of our last evenings on Sable. I was alone on a dune writing in my log and felt a presence behind me. I wasn't sure what to do, so did nothing.