Fairview Historical Society Articles Archives

The Bedford Basin

Submitted by Devonna Edwards

The Bedford Basin is a large enclosed bay, forming the northwestern end of Halifax Harbour. The Basin measures 8 Kilometres long and 5 Kilometres wide. The Basin is very deep with some areas measuring several dozen metres in depth.

Geologists believed that the Bedford Basin and the Halifax Harbour did not exist before an Ice Age nearly 2.5 million years ago
The glaciers left the Bedford Basin a lake that later became part of the harbour after the ice melted. The deepest part of the Halifax Harbour, 71 metres is in the Bedford Basin.

The Bedford Basin is described as bowl-shaped with a maximum depth of 71 metres. It is mostly mud-covered in areas deeper than 20 metres. Shallow areas consists of gravel in the cobble and boulder range with a few areas of outcropping bedrock. The Basin contains four sub-basins: The Bedford Bay in the northwest, Birch Cove on the western shore, Fairview Cove in the southwest and Wrights Cove on the eastern shore.

During the First and Second World Wars the Royal and Royal Canadian Navy assembled convoys, consisting of hundreds of merchant ships, in the Bedford Basin where they were safe due to torpedo nets at the mouth of Halifax Harbour that kept German submarines away.

Many things can be found on the bottom of the Basin such as 30 damaged Volvos cars. The government in 1969 gave permission to the car company to dump them in the Basin. Also found on the bottom is a barge that caught on fire and caused the 1945 explosion at Magazine Hill. As a result of that explosion live ammunition is still being discovered buried at the bottom of the Basin.

The remains of ships can be seen probably belonging to Duc D’Anville who abandoned many of his French fleet in the Basin in 1746. The remains were found just off Fairview Container Pier.

Shoals off the western shore of Bedford Basin:

These drowned islands include Jonquiere Bank off Birch Cove) and Parfaite Bank across Forest Hill Drive,
named after a French Frigate from Duc D’ Anville fleet that was condemned and burned in Fairview Cove.

The Barge in the Bedford Basin:

The floating barge in the Bedford Basin is an auxiliary vessel of the Royal Canadian Navy that was
launched in 1958. It functions as a floating laboratory and workshop for Defence Research and
Development Canada’s Atlantic Research Centre. The barge is mainly used to test and calibrate underwater acoustic transducers and hull-mounted sonars on navy ships and submarines.

The Bedford Magazine Explosion:

On the evening of Wednesday, July 18, 1945 a fire broke out on the jetty of the Bedford Magazine, when a barge exploded and quickly spread fire to the dock where the ammunition had been temporarily stored outside due to overcrowding in the main compound. A chain reaction of fires, explosions and concussions ensued, continuing for more than 24 hours.
Today the Bedford Magazine is known as CFAD Bedford .

Log Boom:

Hubert Smart, who was 85 years old in the year 2000, told me that years ago there was a log boom in the Bedford Basin.
The logs were taken down Geizer’s Mountain (Main Ave.) by trucks or on a huge sleigh to the Bedford Basin to the Irving Oil Wharf in Fairview Cove and dumped into the Basin. The logs were then pushed by tug boats up the Basin to Moirs Mill in Bedford.

Sea Monster in the Bedford Basin:

The Halifax Mail newspaper Sept. 5, 1934

Duo claim they saw “Sea Monster” sporting in the waters of Bedford Basin.

Does a large “Sea Monster” of unknown origin inhabit the waters of the Bedford Basin? This is the claim of Leo Fillis and James Coady, employees of the Highway Garage at Fairview. About two weeks ago while driving along the Bedford Highway, the large “monster” was seen by these two men and other passengers in the car. It was clearing the water about 300 yards from the opposite shore of the Basin. Both men state that it is about 70 feet long, with an enormous head, “the size of the front of a motor car.” Leo Fillis says, there are two large protuberances from the back leviathan about the size of a stove-pipe in diameter and standing at least three feet out of water.

Others Saw it:

The strange monster has been seen by dozens of residents along the Fairview section of the Bedford Road, and shots have been fired at the beast from the old road at Bedford, it is claimed. Other workmen at the garage relate tales that have been told them by motorists of having seen this strange spectacle of marine monster suddenly breaking the surface of the calm waters into a welter of foam. The ‘beast’ is described by those who have seen it as being a least 70 feet in length and swims rapidly through the water with a streak of white foam, the length of a good sized ship breaking from its sides. The head of the “Sea Serpent” is an ugly and ferocious sight, it is claimed. Great teeth are said to stud the gaping jaws of the monster as it speeds along the surface of the water raising its ferocious and horrible head above the waves. Mr. Fillis stated that he is in company with Mr. Coady and several other people who saw the beast at about 5:30 on the evening of August 22.

The Halifax Mail newspaper Sept. 6, 1934

Duncan Gay of Tuft’s Cove went fishing in the “Narrows” yesterday afternoon after hearing stories that a “Sea Monster” had been sighted in the Bedford Basin waters. He had hardly cast out his hand line before he felt a tremendous tug. Then after a hard struggle he successfully landed a 60 pound halibut.
This was the largest fish of its kind taken in these waters for some time and the catch was unique in that few halibut have been taken in the harbour this season.

The Halifax Mail Sept. 7, 1934

Even though it may be doubted that a sea-serpent or some similar form of monster inhabits the water of the Bedford Basin, there is no doubt that large fish do frequent that section of Halifax Harbour. Three large tuna were sighted by James Coady, William Coady and Frank Prudenomme of Fairview while fishing near the shore of Bedford Basin at Fairview. The largest tuna has been seen several times and it is estimated to be about 14 feet long and weighting in the vicinity of 1000 pounds.

Newspaper dated Aug. 23, 1927

A strange fish that has been the terror of local bathers in the Bedford Basin. It was shot by Frank Carnell and the fish was taken from the Basin by J. MacEachern this week. The fish seemed to hover near the shore and showed a sail-like fin out of the water.
Bathers thought it was a shark, while local experienced men say it was a Sun Fish.

History repeated itself in August 2006, when people were alarmed at seeing a fin in the waters of the Bedford Basin. They thought it was a shark but it was found to be just a Sun Fish.

Fred Mercer told me that when he was a young lad around 14 years old, his friends and him would go to the Tannery Wharf on the Bedford Highway, across from the Quarry (a car dealership stands there today) to catch lobsters. They used an old potato bag with cut up perch or other fish in it as bait, with the fish pieces sticking out of holes in the bag and the mouth of the bag open. They would tie a 25 foot-long string on the bag, throw the bag in the water, and slowly pull it back by the string. By the time they had pulled the bag to shore it was full of lobsters. The boys then cooked them over an open fire and had a good feast.

Many accidents occurred on the Bedford Basin due to the activities there such as boating, yachting, fishing and swimming. Here are a few:

March 2, 1886

Yesterday afternoon, John Foster conveyancer of this city was driving a pair of horses and sleigh on the Bedford Basin (years ago the Basin froze over) the horses fell through a weak spot in the ice and were with difficulty, rescued by the efforts of some person who happened to be in the neighbourhood.
Mr. Foster also fell into the water, but managed to get out before sinking.

Aug. 2, 1897

A sad accident happened off Stevens Island on the Bedford Basin. Albert Ruggles drowned.
A party of some 20 young men had a camp on the island where they were all to meet that evening.
Their boat got about 150 yards from Stevens Island when Ruggles fell into the water. He sank shortly after. Robert Hermann jumped into the water and endeavored to save him but it was too late.

July 15, 1908

Una, Willie Muir and Willie’s younger sister Elsie (12 years old)
The three were boating on the Basin when the squall struck. They were between the Florence Hotel (later called the Rockaway) and an Island when the boat upset, throwing them in the water. Willie gave the two girls an oar to hold onto and he tried to swim to the Island. They were all expert swimmers, but about halfway there he went down. It was as though he had taken a cramp. Soon after, Una let go of the oar and went down too but the little girl clung to the oar until rescue came. Not known how long she was in the water.

June 29, 1942

Three Merchant Seamen rescued from the Bedford Basin. Trio became exhausted in the water.
Three Merchant Seamen from Manning Pool (Located on Barrington Street between Roome and Duffus Streets) were rescued from the Bedford Basin after becoming exhausted about 300 yards from Africville shore. The three British Seamen, Robert Marnell, John Kelly, and Hugh Gray were none the worst for their experience. According to the residents at Africville, the three men swam too far from the shore line and became exhausted. Their cries for help were heard by residents who hastened to the shore to give aid. A naval boat cruising in the vicinity picked up one of the men. A small rowboat operated by Lawrence Brown and James Carvey picked up the other two seamen. The three were taken to the home of Mrs. Kathleen Howes and given treatment. The City Police Patrol was called and the men were taken to Manning Pool.

In the 1950s

Danny O’Flaherty told me a story that happened sometime in the 1950s. Eddy Rogers jumped on one of the many ice flows that floated in the Bedford Basin during the winter months. He thought that he could jump off it any time that he wanted but the ice flow guided by the currents moved him quickly along heading for Halifax Harbour. Spectators had to call for help and a navy boat was alerted to save the terrified boy.

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