Caroline Shipwreck Hike

Hike to the Caroline Shipwreck, Fundy Shore NS

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On December 17, 1831 the new Digby Packet Schooner Caroline left Digby from Saint John with a cargo sheep, cattle and apples. The schooner Caroline was soon ravaged by a winter storm.




Three days later the dismasted vessel drifted ashore on the beach with five frozen bodies on board.

The remaining passengers and crew were never found. Those five bodies were buried near the beach at Baxter’s Harbour.

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Now, there is a monument at the location of where the Caroline came to shore near Baxter’s Harbour.

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Apparently the idea for the plaque originated with the late John Bigelow of Halifax. Mr. Bigelow did the research on the Caroline, interviewing in the process a relative of one of the men who found the storm battered Caroline on the shore. Mr. Bigelow had the 2,000-pound plaque prepared in 1996 and it was placed on the beach the following year.

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According to his nephew, Tom Taylor, Mr. Bigelow wanted the stone “left as a legacy” to mark the Caroline tragedy.

I had done a lot of research on the Caroline shipwreck and we include it as part of the Hall’s Harbour Ghost walk with Valley Ghost Walks. I suggest going there to hear it being told!

 

The Hike

The Hike to the Caroline Shipwreck is quite easy and straightforward.

However, to get there, we enlisted the help of the amazing Scotian Hiker. Don leads really interesting hikes throughout the province, and we’ve gone on several. Kids are invited to attend if they can keep up with the adults. And no complaining – or they carry his backpack full of bricks!

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We set off to find the Caroline Shipwreck monument with all the kids in tow!

 

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The hike was about 45 minutes to the beach, and about 2km each way.

The trail follows an old cart road down to the beach, and is over cobblestones in some areas, but relatively easy to traverse.

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At one point, there should be a wide brook for you to have to go over, but because the water levels were so low, there was merely a trickle.

Once you get to the beach, there are tons of sea caves to explore.

YOU MUST GO AT LOW TIDE!

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And interesting rock formations to see.

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The monument is to the left, when you hit the beach, sitting up on the side of the cliff. Head towards that.

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To go back, merely reverse your steps.



It is a lovely hike, and a strong reminder of the power of the seas.

 

How to Get There

As for getting there, if you follow the 221 from Centreville down into Sheffield Mills, turn left at the T onto Black Hole Road and that will take you to the top of the mountain.

At the top, proceed straight (with caution) through the intersection and follow the dirt road down to the shore where the road bends to the left.

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The trail entrance is at the elbow where Black Hole Road and Old Baxter Mill Road meet, just east of Baxters Harbour.

On this “elbow” you will see the entrance to the trail.

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More History

The history of the Caroline shipwreck is so moving and powerful. In my research, I found this anonymous poem about the shipwreck. Enjoy

These lines, composed by an anonymous sea captain relate the melancholy tale:

LINES
On Loss of the Packet “Caroline”, December 17, 18, 1831

In youthful days, with gay delight,
I taught the harp to sing
Of love and beauty, joy and mirth;
I touched the vocal string.
But age, like winter, now takes place
Full sixty years are fled;
The furrows show it on my cheek;
The frost upon my head.

To scenes more recent I attend
The scene which late has passed,
Of storms and death within my view;
And that destructive blast
That wrecked the fatal Caroline,
With passengers and crew,
And buried all beneath the waves
My thoughts still now pursue.

On the Seventeenth of December,
This vessel did set sail
From Digby Port, where she belonged,
With passengers and mail,
Bound for St. John, New Brunswick,
Her duty to perform,
Under a fair and easy breeze,
Nor dread approaching storm.

Five seaman bold make up the crew
To guide her o’er the tide;
And passengers, there’s nine on board
They safely seemed to ride.
Now parting from their nearest friends
And all they held most dear,
And eagerly their course pursued,
Nor seemed there cause for fear.

Five hours they plied a steady course,
For still the wind was light;
At four o’clock in th’afternoon
They brought the Port in sight.
Sad omen at this time of year,
The wind at once did fail;
It died away in the Southwest,
And blew a northwest gale.

It struck a terror on the mind,
And raised a sudden gloom;
It seemed a warrant to consign
Their bodies to the tomb.
No time for counsel or delay
Too soon the moment flies,
The vessel reels upon her side,
And there half buried lies.

“Let go your halyards fore and aft
And ease her of her sail;
Bear helm a-weather, boys,
She’ll stand before the gale.”
The mainsail now they well secure,
And every stop make fast;
The foresail reef’d before the wind,
They hoist it to the blast.

Night coming on, the gale increased;
Fate seemed to hover night;
While keen the sprays congealed to frost;
In aerial billows fly!
No fond hope to soothe the mind,
But gloomy as the grave,
And not a star to cover the sight,
Death seemed on every wave.

“There is one chance, if Fate permit,
Upon the raging sea,
If we can gain to Spencer’s Head,
We there may find a lea.
Then put her on a due east course,
Before the furious gale;
Her hull is strong, her rigging new
She’ll bear the shortened sail.

Four hours upon the tempest wing
She parts the seas below
Dashed into fluctuating fire
By her dividing prow.
Thus she triumphant rides the storm.
In hopes the Port to gain,
Till by a sevenfold surging sea
Her foremost sprung in twain.

The dire event their souls appal
Then, broaching to the sea
The mainmast, left without support
Fell backward o’er the lea.
Fate now presides o’er all the crew
They’re launched into the deep
Sunk to the bottom of the main
In everlasting sleep.

Now the broad seas, from van to rear,
While o’er the deck they roll,
Displace the hatch, and by their force,
Fill her capacious hold.
Two days she was to loo-ard drove;
The wind from northwest bore;
And still continued in a gale
Which brought her to the shore.

Sad sight unto a feeling min,
Exploring o’er the wreck;
Four human co’ses in the hold;
And one upon the deck;
Drove by the violence of the sea
He was leeward cast,
And in the shattered bulwarks caught,
And by the foot held fast.

And these; of all the fated crew
That perished in the sea,
They in one common grave were laid,
Their names unknown to me.
High on the prow, above the sea.
Her figure – head is seen;
She seems to smile on all below
Unconscious of the scene.

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