Our flight took us over the Strait of Canso, over Lennox Passage, and many of the islands that lay adjacent to Janvrin’s Island and Arichat.
A quick glance reveals an abundance of gravel and sand that make up the shores of these islands. Curved horns of sand (sand spits) jut seaward from most of these small islands. Little coves seem to be infilling with the abundant sediments.
We were simply passing over this part of the coastline, on our way to the far eastern end of Isle Madame, when Cap La Ronde came in sight. A few low passes soon gave us a better view of the oval-shaped hills that make up much of Cap La Ronde.
Some were wooded, some were treeless and grassy. Most were the shape of an upturned boat. This cape is made up of these rounded hills, beaches, and lagoons and looks across the water at L’Ardoise, St. Peter’s, and St. Peter’s Bay.
These small hills are drumlins, usually up to 30 metres high and less than a kilometre in length. All are made up of sand, gravel, clay, and scattered boulders. Drumlins are unique depositional features at a leading edge of a melting continental glacier. The long axis of these little oval-shaped hills is a good indicator of the direction the glacier traveled in. Drumlins are more or less streamlined, with a rounded and a steeper margin at their leading edge and more tapered at the other end.
Along Nova Scotia’s Atlantic coastline, these drumlins are found to be quite numerous, especially in the Lunenburg County area. In fact, there they are referred to as “whalebacks” because of their similarity to a pod of breaching whales. A large field of drumlins has a striking appearance when compared with the surrounding landscape. The abundance of them with their intervening valleys gives an interesting rolling look to the landscape. A fairly large drumlin field can be found in Loch Lomond and the southern half of the Mira River area.
Drumlins are almost completely absent from the western hilly side of Cape Breton. Most of Inverness County’s hills are made up of hard resistant bedrock with thin layers of soil covering them. Because of their makeup, drumlins have been a good source of sand and gravels for road-building and other forms of construction.
Drumlin may be a strange name for this small oval-shaped hill, but the Gaelic word for the same feature is druim. Throughout Nova Scotia and particularly Cape Breton, there are many landscape features that owe their origin to that great sculptor of the land – the glaciers. Many small islands and peninsulas of Cape Breton’s south and east coasts, from Isle Madame to Cape Gabarus, are drumlin-like features that are easily eroded by the pounding sea.
There were lots of pictures taken and it was time to head back to the airport at Port Hastings. Another interesting feature of Cape Breton’s spectacular landscape was now added to the collection.