Grand Manan

Grand Manan

Grand Manan, island c.16 mi (26 km) long and c.7 mi (11.3 km) wide, S N.B. Canada, in the Bay of Fundy. On the north and west sides are bold cliffs, rising from 200 ft to 400 ft (61-122 m) high, visible from the Maine coast. The principal villages and harbors, North Head, Grand Harbor, and Seal Cove, are on the south and east sides. The chief occupation is fishing, and the island is a summer resort. It was settled after the American Revolution by Loyalists; British possession was disputed by the United States until 1817.
Grand Manan Island (also simply Grand Manan) is a Canadian island, and the largest in the Bay of Fundy. It is also the primary island in the Grand Manan Archipelago, sitting at the boundary between the Bay of Fundy and the Gulf of Maine on the Atlantic coast. Grand Manan is jurisdictionally part of Charlotte County in the province of New Brunswick. As of 2006, the island had a population of 2,460.


Grand Manan measures 34 km (16 miles) long and has a maximum width of 18 km (11 miles) with an area of 137 km² (53 miles²). The closest point of mainland North America to Grand Manan is in Washington County, Maine, near the town of Lubec - the easternmost point of the continental United States, where the distance to the island measures 15 km (9 miles) across the Grand Manan Channel.

White Head Island, Gull Rock, Machias Seal Island and North Rock are part of the larger Grand Manan archipelago; the latter two are approximately 15 kilometres southwest of Grand Manan Island. Both Machias Seal Island and North Rock are claimed by both Canada and the United States. For administrative purposes, they form the most southerly part of New Brunswick. Machias Seal Island also houses the province's last remaining staffed lighthouse. The light has been in continuous operation since 1832; the post of lighthousekeeper was withdrawn for cost-saving reasons in the 1990s, but soon reinstated to provide a human demonstration of national sovereignty. The Canadian Wildlife Service also operates the bird sanctuary here, home to many puffins and terns during the breeding months. Research is conducted on the island by the Atlantic Cooperative Wildlife Ecology Research Network at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton.


Used exclusively by the Passamaquoddy nation prior to European discovery, the island was first settled by Europeans in the late 18th century with the arrival of Loyalist refugees from the American Revolutionary War. Nonetheless the island's population maintained close economic ties with the United States, and smuggling was common in the early years of the nineteenth century. Grand Manan was initially included as part of the British colony of Nova Scotia until it was included in the new colony of New Brunswick, created in 1784. Grand Manan was also claimed by the United States until 1817 when this claim was dropped in exchange for Britain dropping its sovereignty claims over Moose, Frederick and Dudley islands in nearby Cobscook Bay.


Grand Manan's economy is entirely dependent upon fishing, aquaculture and tourism. The principal settlements are North Head, Castalia, Woodwards Cove, Grand Harbour, and Seal Cove. In 1995, these five settlements were amalgamated into a single municipal government, known as the Village of Grand Manan. Coastal Transport Limited operates a daily ferry service between North Head and the mainland port of Blacks Harbour, as well as between Ingalls Head on Grand Manan and nearby White Head Island.

The harbour at North Head is the primary destination for visiting pleasure boaters, though services are limited. Waters around Grand Manan are considered potentially dangerous due to terrain and weather. (Grand Manan was the site of many shipwrecks during the years when commercial steam and sail vessel traffic was high. There is a good display on this at the Maritime Museum in Halifax. The Grand Manan Museum houses one of the largest collections of shipwreck-recovered items in the Maritime provinces -- all gathered from the waters surrounding the island. Visitors can request access to a large collection of documents, books and journals dealing with all aspects of Grand Manan history and life.

Contemporary issues

Communities on Grand Manan face a number of modern challenges, and current issues include increasingly public problems with illegal drug trafficking, resource management issues related to the lobster fishery and illegal lobster harvesting by American vessels in the Canadian waters near Grand Manan, and the export of aquaculture jobs to the mainland.

Further reading

  • Joshua M. Smith, Borderland Smuggling: Patriots, Loyalists and Illicit Trade in the Northeast, 1783-1820 Gainesville, University Press of Florida, 2006.
  • Elaine Ingalls Hogg, "Historic Grand Manan -- Images of Our Past" Nimbus Publishing, 2007.
  • Tim Peters, "Rhythm of the Tides", Tim Peter's Publishing - August 2000

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