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A Visit to the Wreck of The Fury

Kayakers approach "The Fury" aground at Little LiscombeBy Gail Martin
(photos by Glenn MacKay)

When Sam Slick (Thomas Haliburton) sailed towards Liscombe in 1855, his brig "Black Hawk" was becalmed for several hours before "a light cat's-paw" of a breeze sprang up from the east and dead ahead. The pilot feared an incoming fog bank, "a dangerous thing on this coast" and headed back west for safe harbour in "Chesencook". Haliburton writes, "The sails were scarcely furled before the fog set in, or rather rose up, for it seemed not so much to come from the sea as to ascend from it, as steam rises from heated water."

The sudden rise of an Eastern Shore fog or a North Atlantic squall has challenged sailors for centuries, causing numerous shipwrecks and more than a few lives lost.

One of the more famous Eastern Shore wrecks can still be seen, either by walking about ten minutes through the woods along Indian Point Road from Little Liscombe and looking east towards the Cape Gegogan headland or by boat, where the huge hull of the Fury has rested on Steering Reef for more than forty years.

Today, kayakers traveling along a charted "Bay of Islands Route #2" have an easier passage than vessels of yesteryear, but as many have discovered, it's not without danger. However, by paddling carefully at ebb tide through the treacherous reefs and shoals of Liscombe Harbour and taking caution against the swells, kayakers can put-in on Steering Reef and explore the Fury at close range.

Through them, we can trace the breaking up of the hulk of the 300 foot Fury that ran aground in 1964 during a nighttime winter storm.

In the spring of 2000, Derek Hairon of the Jersey Canoe Club set off alone to search for Captain Kidd's treasure, after hearing of a rock in Gaspereau Bland. The hull of "The Fury" up close

Hairon quickly discovered that his 25 years of kayaking experience in the calm waters off the coast of Jersey (between France and Britain) does not serve him well on this remote stretch of Nova Scotia.

"Within half an hour of leaving Tangier Harbour" he writes, " I was sitting on a calm sea with the sound of breaking waves somewhere on my right. Everything was enveloped in thick fog and Baltee Island was just a name on the chart. Just to complicate things, the compass needed a 20-degree adjustment for the area.

The only reason for not being at the island by now must have been that I was paddling slower through the fog. All my knowledge told me that the real problems in fog always start when people change their routes without good reason. I paddled on. Thirty minutes later my kayak literally bumped into the island. I dragged my gear out of the kayak, put up the tent and just crashed out. It was a salutary lesson to take more care in future and to remember I was not paddling back home."

Hairon stumbled upon the Fury by accident.

"One thing about kayaking is that you never know what is around the next headland. Rounding Byrne Head the outline of the Fury appeared. Wrecked during a winter storm, the Fury is now a rusty hulk that within a few years will be nothing more than a heap of tangled metal. Were it not in such a remote location it would be a tourist attraction. I approached the gaping hole in the ship. To paddle through seemed tempting, but the thought of the swell throwing me onto jagged metal changed my mind. My first days near mishap flashed back. I did not want to risk anything happening on my last day's paddle. I slowly turned and headed towards Sherbrooke."

Three years later, Gregor Wilson (East Coast Outfitters) conducts day trips to the Fury for Liscombe Lodge tourists. "It is a sight to see as the hull gradually succumbs to the oceans forces", he writes on his web site.

Kayaker "Magoo" (Glen MacKay)  at "The Fury"Glenn MacKay of Pictou County Paddle & Oar in New Glasgow, has kayaked the Eastern Shore many times. "Highway 7 rules!" he says enthusiastically, "Best kayaking in Atlantic Canada. I don't know of any place that has so many varied and interesting sea kayak venues, anywhere."

Glenn's excursion to the Fury was on Sunday, October 8, 2006. As he and a friend left Little Liscombe, conditions were ideal with clear sunny skies, no wind to speak of and a falling tide. By the time they had skirted Redmans Head, crossed Gegogan Harbour to Tobacco Island and were heading toward the Fury, a brisk wind had come up. Arriving at Steering Reef, the waves were "unnerving, especially where they collided with the bounce-back from the reef."

It is several years since the previous kayakers' accounts and The Fury shows the obvious ravages of the relentless North Atlantic. According to Glenn "the pounding waves have reduced the 300' bulk of the Fury by half, and the reef is strewn with chunks of plate, fittings and steam gear. We took lots of photos, then headed out on the now active whitecaps towards the lee of Tobacco Island. From there we ventured into the teeth of the blow, crossing the 4 kilometers to Crook Point on the eastern tip of Liscomb Island. It was a bit of a slog, but the wind, waves and swells made for a really fun hull-slapping trip."

Fortunately for the crew of the Fury, no lives were lost that stormy night and the next morning they were able to walk ashore along the spit leading out to the reef. The kayak route to "The Fury"

Glenn spoke to a local fisherman who remembers the wreck. "He marveled", Glenn said, "at the number of much deadlier reefs and shoals the Fury had to thread past before settling on the only one with shore access. He also recalled the distress flares fired by the crew that awful night, and how they were ripped from the sky by the shrieking wind and flung horizontally into his grandfather's farm fields several kilometers away."

Glenn didn't search for Kidd's treasure on the return paddle, but when the kayaks put-in on the northern end of Liscombe Island, he discovered, "a beautiful pond on the island behind a high cobble barrier, with an island in the middle. We wondered if there was a pond on that island…"

Your comments on this, or any other Highway7 article are welcome.

Resources for further reading:

Shipwrecks in Nova Scotia
Genealogy Resources
Maritime Museum of the Atlantic

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Highway7 E-zine, a publication of Hatch Media, is an electronic journal with a focus on commercial, historical, cultural and ecological issues concerning the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia in Canada. Topics include a growing resource of currently more than 300 articles. More articles and image galleries are added frequently as new material is brought to our attention. With Highway7.com, our primary aim is to serve, inform and reflect the rural communities on the Atlantic Coast of Nova Scotia, as well as to acquaint new residents, visitors, tourists, and investors with the special beauty and enormous potential of our region.
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