Collecting Memories at Hopewell Rocks

The following selection of writing describes a trip Olof Nylander took to the Hopewell Rocks of New Brunswick in September of 1932. I’ve spent my summers just a few miles from the Hopewell Rocks, and been there many times. Reading Mr. Nylander’s description of the place gave me a sense of both nostalgia and wonder. I can look back and remember the times I have visited there with family and friends, and think back on all the times I spent exploring the muddy shore and rough water-cut stone monoliths. Mr. Nylander’s writing, however, also made me feel like I need to return and view the Rocks with fresh eyes, like I hadn’t really been paying attention before. 

All of the small snails I saw climbing over the rocks among the seaweed had names. And Mr. Nylander gives their scientific names in his article, though some have changed over the years. He mentions various species of sea snail, such as dog whelks, and common periwinkles, and also observes a type of saltwater clam named Macoma boltica Linne. Upon his arrival in nearby Hillsborough, (which is a lovely little town to visit today with a cafe and several historic houses) he describes a medium sized garden snail, Helex hortenses Muller (actually spelled Helix hortensis). 

When we travel, perhaps we should spend more time looking around us as Mr. Nylander did, taking in the smaller creatures of the world and acknowledging them for their contribution. By reading Olof Nylander’s writings, we are offered a description of the world that is so similar to today, you would hardly think it had changed, except for the number of tourists. 

The following are Mr. Nylander’s own words, from September 1932, in an entry titled “Shell Collecting at Hopewell Cape Rocks Where the Petit Codiac River Enters the Bay of Fundy.”

“In company with my friend Reiner Bonde on September second, 1932, we went up the north side of the bay. The farmers were cutting the salt marsh hay along the road for miles, storing in big barns along the flats. We arrived at Hopewell Cape Camps in the afternoon and stayed over night. 

“The tide at this point had been very high this afternoon so the prospect was that it would be very low towards evening. 

“We descended a long flight of steps over the steep red sandstone cliffs to the beach and made a careful examination of the water sculptured rocks standing on the beach and along the shore and Dr. Bonde took a number of good photographs. 

“At low tide is some outcroppings of rocks partly covered with seaweeds and small barnacles, and an ideal place to collect shells. The shells were much smaller than the average of the same species at the entrance of the Bay of Fundy at Eastport, Maine. 

Thais lapillus Linne of a light achrous color fairly abundant in the crevices of the ledge. Littorina littorea Linne Littorina rudis Donovan Littorina palliata Say Acmaea testudinalis Muller common on loose slabs of rocks. This particular rocky place was about ten feet above the low water mark on the day given. 

“At low water I found one specimen of Alectrion (Nassa) obsoleta say inhabited by a hermit crab, and one dead specimen of Macoma boltica Linne. This place is just below where the Petit Codiac River, heavy laden with red sediments, enters the Bay of Fundy, covering the shore for a considerable distance with several inches of soft, sticky red mud. Here the tides rise from thirty-six to forty-six feet and the outgoing tide, developing a very strong current, so the mud is practically carried away from the foot of the steps to the ledge near low water where I collected the shells. The shells collected are remarkable clean from any parasitic growths and the most perfect I have collected on the Atlantic coast. 

“The next morning at the low tide we went to see if anything additional had been brought up during the night and Dr. Bonde took some more photographs of the fantastic water sculptured rocks. We went up to Hillsborough gypsum quarry and there I found two living specimens of Helex hortenses Muller, one in the vegetation and the other crawling on the planks near the entrance to a quarry.”

Introduction by Jada Molton. This column is the work of the Nylander Museum Board of Trustees.

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