Wednesday, March 15, 2017

FUNDY TREASURES: Pirate Ned Low, Captain Kidd and the Treasure of Isle Haute

by Art MacKay, 3/15/2017

Image taken at low tide at Harbourville, Nova Scotia
Isle Haute is a remote island in the middle of upper Bay of Fundy near the entrance to the Minas Basin, 16 kilometers from the coast of Harbourville and 8 kilometers south-southwest of Cape Chignecto, Nova Scotia. The island is part of Cumberland County, Nova Scotia and is 3 km long and 0.4 km wide. The Mi'kmaq used the island to make stone tools before Europeans arrived and called the island "Maskusetik", meaning place of wild potatoes. Samuel de Champlain gave the present name to the island, meaning in French "High Island", in 1604 when he observed the towering bluffs, timber and fresh-water springs. The steep 100 m (328 ft) basalt cliffs of the island are the result from volcanic eruptions in the Jurassic period and may have been connected to the North Mountain volcanic ridge on the mainland 200 million years ago, before the Bay of Fundy was formed.
In 1878, a lighthouse was built and was manned until 1956, when fire collapsed the lighthouse and home of the lighthouse keeper. The lighthouse was replaced by a steel tower and is unmanned. Federally owned, the island is being transferred from the Canadian Coast Guard to the Canadian Wildlife Service to protect its unique ecosystem. The island is also protected under Nova Scotia's Special Places Act to protect early Mi'kmaw archaeological sites. Digging without an archaeological permit or removal of artifacts is prohibited. (Modified from Wikipedia)


Many of us believe that a mystery unexplained remains a mystery and this seems to be true for Isle Haute, a particularly isolated and rugged island lying off Minas Basin in the Bay of Fundy. While the professionals that study and oversee the island believe that there is no evidence that pirates ever buried treasure there and go so far as to state that “no one has ever discovered any genuine pirate treasure in Nova Scotia”, people still continue the search for treasure left by vicious pirate Edward “Ned” Low or perhaps it was the ubiquitous Captain Kidd as some stories suggest. Whatever the truth, stories abound and treasure hunters have, apparently, pockmarked the island with holes in their quest to discover the treasure. One story places the treasure in a unique pond at one end of the island and it is claimed that there was even an attempt to drain the pond. Islands seem to attract attention as great places to buy and hide ill­-gotten booty and Isle Haute is one of the best.


Early stories suggest the Acadians hid their valuables there during the expulsion and then there is Captain Kidd who seems to have buried his treasure everywhere.

But the established history of Captain  Ned Low places him in the Fundy area. “Outrunning his pursuers following a raid on the New England coast, Pirate Ned and his crew arrived in the Minas Channel in 1722. Supposedly, Ned not only buried his booty on Isle Haute, he also sacrificed one of his crew, whose ghost would guard the treasure until Ned’s return. Ned never made it back, however, as he was captured, imprisoned and ended his career at the gallows, taking the secret location with him.” (

In 1929 B.C. treasure hunter Douglas Carmichael made several trips to the island and reported his discovery of “jewels and coins”. His claims were never supported however and the truth of his discover remains unproven. While many years have passed and the individual is long past away, Edward Rowe Snow, an American adventurer and writer learned about the treasure of Isle Haute. He researched the subject and somehow, somewhere, obtained a map that was reputed to have been created by Ned Low himself. The map image clearly resembled Isle Haute and, equipped with his research and a professional metal detector, Snow arrived on the island in 1952 as a guest of the lighthouse keeper, John Fullerton and began his search.   It apparently wasn’t long before he unearthed a human skeleton and in the same area a cache of silver and gold coins some dating back to 1710. His discovery was quickly seized by the authorities but a later application to the appropriate authorities resulted in the return of his coins. The world press picked up the story and he and Isle Haute became famous for a brief time. He published photos of his find in Life magazine, although it is open to question whether what he claimed to have found was treasure, shipwreck gold or merely a plant. Snow was candid in admitting that the real money in treasure hunting came not from finding anything but rather from writing about it and selling books.(see McLellan, 1955; Trueman, 1970; Snow, 1952). Unfortunately, Snow’s efforts and those of other treasure hunters have led to the pointless and frenzied digging on Isle Haute, which hold tragic consequences for the island’s history. The spot most favoured by Snow and other treasure hunters at one end of the pond also happens to be one of the more important archeological sites on the island.


Amherst to Advocate harbour.PNG


Beautiful, rugged, remote and inaccessible aptly describe Isle Haute. Originally managed by the Canadian Coast Guard, the lighthouse is long gone and only a tower serviced by a helicopter, guide the ships at night. Today, there is some confusion about who manages the island and Provincial professionals seem to think a permit is required. But at this time, it is uncertain how you apply. That said, a boat tour can be arranged and there are many, many other interesting places to explore, making the trip worthwhile and one that should be on your list.

Isle Haute has all of the elements of a great place to visit and based on all the comments I have seen, it is well worth the effort.  There is only one way really and that is by boat. We recommend you contact Advocate Boat Tours to book your visit. Isle Haute is one of their favourite tours. Here’s part of what they have to say:

all 1-902-670-8314 or email
Remote Isle Haute is home to a large seal and seagull colony. Copyright:
Remote Isle Haute is home to a large seal and bird colony. Copyright:
Take an off-shore tour to the mysterious Isle Haute in the middle of the Bay of Fundy where numerous seals frolic in the clear water, and bald eagles, seagulls and peregrine falcons ride the updrafts along the cliffs. This destination is the highlight of any trip to Nova Scotia if you like wild, unspoiled nature and amazing geology. Our most popular tour, this is always a hit with the kids as well due to the awesome wildlife viewing opportunities.


Edwardlowepicture.jpg Ned_Low_at_PTOC.jpg


1936_Low_card.jpg The_Cruelties_practised_by_Captain_Low.jpg

The Reference Files: These are the media and document files we use in preparing this guide provided as a single Zip File. It includes general information as well as information on the lighthouse, pirates, shipwrecks of the island, studies carried out and tourist services in the area. We save references as PDFs since we discovered that links tend to disappear taking important information with them. Please note the copyrights remain with the owners and apart from our guide all other media and documents are for references and fair use only. $7.99 Buy this on Selz


HIDDEN TREASURES: Be careful what you wish for!


Having followed some of the major treasure battles throughout the years and also based on some personal experience, it always amazes me that the "professionals" have passed laws that give them total ownership of the treasure hidden in the land and sea. And they have the power to pass the laws.

In the end, many important artifacts disappear from view with little of no proper analysis. 

In the one instance, treasure hunters realize the problems they face when they do find something of value and the items are never claimed and enter the murky artifact underground.

In the second instance, the artifacts are collected and stored by government museums which, as this article highlights, do not have the resources to properly handle these artifacts let alone make them available to researchers and other interested parties that would benefit from access to the items and information.

So is there a solution? Of course there is. Solve the "turf" problem that many professionals subscribe to and then there is absolutely no reason why collected artifacts should not be registered with the jurisdictional body and retained by the finder with every right to sell or otherwise transfer ownership, provided the managing body was notified and within certain sensible guidelines. Additionally, small displays by individuals and organizations should be encouraged, particularly where they provide more understanding about the local area where they were uncovered.

Will it happen? Who knows.

That's the way I see it today.


Where to store a million artifacts? Nova Scotia's past poses present problem - Nova Scotia - CBC News

Hundreds of thousands of artifacts make up the Nova Scotia Museum's growing collection
By David Burke, CBC News Posted: Mar 15, 2017 6:30 AM AT Last Updated: Mar 15, 2017 6:30 AM AT

Fishermen found this ulu, Inuktituk for "woman’s knife", near Digby Neck. A metal version of this stone tool is still used in the Arctic to butcher sea mammals and prepare hides. (Nova Scotia Museum)

A law devoted to the protection and study of historical sites in the province has created a dilemma for the Nova Scotia Museum: once an artifact has been unearthed, where on earth can it go?

Nova Scotia's Special Places Protection Act, introduced in 1989, makes it illegal for anyone to go hunting for archeological artifacts without a heritage research permit. The same legislation also requires archeologists to hand over whatever they find to the province once an area has been excavated and the items cannot be rejected.

That's left the Nova Scotia Museum — one of the oldest provincial museums in the country — with a lot of history and little place to store it.

"We've got well over 500,000 [artifacts] and I think we will be nearing a million before too long," said Catherine Cottreau-Robins, the curator of archaeology for the museum, which consists of 28 sites across Nova Scotia.
Growing pains

Archeological artifacts are any item, object or remains from human history or prehistory found buried in the earth. Many of the museum's artifacts include tools, dishes and jewelry.

Storage problems aren't unique to the museum's archeology department. The museum's department of cultural history routinely refuses donations that are similar to items it already has, including clothes, jewelry and antique tools.

However, the archeology department cannot reject artifacts recovered through a heritage research permit, even if it already has multiples of the same object in its collection, said Cottreau-Robins. The exception is donations from the general public that are not deemed significant.

This earthenware pot was found in Birchtown at what the museum believes are the remains of the home of Black Loyalist leader Col. Stephen Blucke. (Nova Scotia Museum)

The number of permits to do archeological work in the province has doubled in the last decade, meaning artifacts have been pouring in looking for a new home.
Digger's discretion

"We're always thinking about space we're filling up," said Cottreau-Robins.

Sean Weseloh-McKeane, the special places co-ordinator with the provincial Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage, said archeologists at a dig site use their own discretion in deciding which artifacts should be removed.

"In some sites there may be large numbers of nails from the early 1900s. Do we need every single nail to come into the provincial collection? Probably not," he said.

"The archeologists are selecting the items that should be coming in to the provincial collection."

According to the museum, non-alcoholic ginger beer was hugely popular in Nova Scotia from the last half of the 19th century right up until the 1920s. There were many brewers of this fermented, low-alcohol beer, including John Dixon, who operated on Quinpool Road in Halifax from 1899 to 1918. (Nova Scotia Museum)
Working on creative solutions

Many artifacts are housed at the Museum of Natural History in Halifax but the Nova Scotia Museum also stores items in facilities in Mount Uniacke and Stellarton. Many community museums also have artifacts on long-term loans.

Most items need to be stored in climate-controlled environments. Cottreau-Robins couldn't say how much it costs the museum to store artifacts because she doesn't handle budgeting.

CBC News asked the Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage for an estimate of that cost, but did not receive a response.

This biface, a stone tool flaked on both sides, was donated to the museum after it was found along the shores of the Mira River in Cape Breton. Made from a single piece of rhyolite roughly 4,000 years ago, it would have been useful for hunting and other activities that required a hefty blade. (Nova Scotia Museum)

Cottreau-Robins said she and her team are trying to come up with creative solutions for their growing storage problems.

"There are challenges to it," she said. "But that's my job as a public servant to work on those challenges and come up with solutions … and find out what Nova Scotians want us to do about collections."

Saturday, March 4, 2017

PLANNING YOUR SUMMER? How about a trip to Norumbega?

This fantastic and great Native American city, Norumbega, was first discovered by a lost Englishman back in the fifteen hundreds and folks have been looking for it ever since. It is on some of the earliest maps of the east coast of the Atlantic. Some say it is Bangor, some think it is in Massachusetts and others think it is at the end of their private dock. Wherever it is, there's lots to explore and see if you add this to your bucket list.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

ANTIQUES: An Ancient Boat Lighting System

Have you ever seen anything like this? This strange item was found by a fish dragger working the Bay of Fundy bottom in the vicinity of West Isles, Charlotte County, NB. It consists of a large circular wax candle held in a leather and metal device that allows the candle to be hung up for illumination.
We assume this was used in an old fishing boat or, perhaps, something more ancient. So far we have been unable to find any similar objects. An origin and date are equally elusive.
Please. Let us know if you have any ideas about this unique find.