Dark Harbour Pond Grand Manan

Fishing boat anchored at Dark Harbour Pond Grand Manan NB

Dark Harbour Pond Grand Manan

Dark Harbour Pond is recognized as a Local Historic Place due to its distinct natural formation and its longstanding connection with the exceptional fishing community of Dark Harbour. This naturally formed pond receives fresh water from the 120-meter cliffs encircling it and salt water that infiltrates through the seawall enclosing the pond. It is the sole cove within the cliffs on the entire western side of Grand Manan.

A natural barrier of stones preserves the pond, with oceanic forces pushing stones up from the sea and freshwater from the brook pressing the stones on the inner side. The first artificial opening in the seawall was created in 1846, enabling ships to enter and find refuge within the seawall. This was financed by John Walter Wilson and James Rait. Over time, storms have sealed the openings, such as the Saxby Gale in 1869, which entirely filled the original southern opening. Following this storm, a more secure opening at the northern end was established and has been preserved ever since. 

Dark Harbour Pond is also recognized for its association with many folklore and pirate stories that have their origins in this dark locale. From the arrival of Grand Manan’s first settlers in 1783 until 1833, a stable ownership of this area was not clarified. Many stories tell how the Spaniards cursed the pond so as to never allow anyone success in their ventures. Despite this, most industries have been unsuccessful. The pond is now owned by the Village of Grand Manan. 

Dark Harbour Pond Grand Manan

Dark Harbour Pond is also recognized for its association with the development of successful industries in the region. Through the 1800’s and into the early 1900’s, the brook was dammed up and trees were harvested from the surrounding woods. The trees were floated downstream to the Dark Harbour Pond where they were milled and the lumber was sold. 

Many early residents who lived in Dark Harbour, such as Isaac Newton & Sons, had developed the pond as a natural fish trap with weirs. They built processing and smoke sheds for harvesting and processing their catch. A unique fish tower that used fire to attract fish to the opening of the pond from the ocean is one of the ways fish were harvested from this tidal area. Also, in the winter, the pond would freeze over on the high tide and then, as the tide receded, the ice would dip down. When the tide came back in, the men would cut holes in the ice and the force of the incoming water would force the fish up through the holes and the men would gather them off the top of the ice. 

Dark Harbour Pond Grand Manan

Due to the towering surrounding cliffs, the pond area is a very dark spot. This creates the perfect conditions for the dulse seaweed to grow on the ocean side of the Dark Harbour Pond seawall. Grand Manan has become famous for this dulse, which is an edible seaweed very high in iron. There is a whole seasonal community of fisher people who move to Dark Harbour Pond and live in camps on the seawall for the summer months to harvest the dulse. They pick the dulse at low tide and on the high tide they spread it on the seawall to dry in the sun. 

Dark Harbour Pond Grand Manan

From the early 1980s to late 1990’s salmon aquaculture was present in the pond. The cages remain but they are empty. 


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