A Significant Change in the Land
Two channel entrances once defined Caribou Harbour, the Big Entrance between Caribou and Monroe’s Island where the PEI ferry passes through, and the Little Entrance at the eastern end of the harbour. In 1979, a massive storm swept already encroaching silt into Little Entrance and closed this second passage permanently.
Little Entrance was a deep and narrow channel at the eastern end of Caribou Harbour that opened to the Northumberland Straight. It allowed fishing boats and larger vessels to enter from the fertile waters between Caribou and Pictou Island. Traffic was busiest throughout the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s when the local factories operated at their peak.
Fishermen had to be skilled to navigate the swift currents of the Little Entrance that shifted as the tide rose and fell. To attempt to go through the Entrance against the tide was folly especially in the days of oar and sail. Even the first gas powered fishing boats with their ‘make and break’ engines were no match for the powerful currents. Coming and going with the tide, however, meant a quick trip.
Bill MacDonald, a gifted athlete and summer plant worker in the late 50’s, tells of swimming for his life across the fast water and enjoying every minute of it!
The 100 ft wide channel was the deepest point in Caribou Harbour separating Munroe's Island from the mainland. McGee’s operated a fishing stage on the mainland side of Little Entrance while on the Monroe’s Island side, Maritime Packers launched the floating docks where thousands of pounds of live lobsters were stored, waiting for processing. Fishermen also kept their boats there, pulling them up for repair on both sides of the channel.
In 1937 construction began at Caribou Harbour on a ferry terminal to serve traffic between Nova Scotia and Woods Island, PEI. Some say that the project’s dredge was dumped too close to shore creating more silt. Construction of terminal altered the sediment patterns along the northern side of Munroe’s Island and also affected the Little Entrance. It became a semi-annual event to see a large dredge boat at work to keep the channel open, especially for the larger smacks that transported lobster from distant fishing grounds. What started as a matter of maintenance gradually became a struggle as the channel increasingly silted up.
Reportedly, a heavy easterly gale succeeded in closing the channel. Prior to that efforts continued to keep Little Entrance open but with less boat traffic the urgency diminished. It appears the fate of the Little Entrance and Maritime Packers, now the last lobster factory at the eastern end of Caribou Harbour were, enjoined. In 1985, a few years after the Little Entrance closed Maritime Packers was also shuttered.
Little Entrance is no more. In its place a broad sandy spit welcomes summer swimmers, bird watchers and hardy winter walkers.