Replacing stakes at the Intruder weir

Driving stakes at the Intruder weir


Days 4, 5, 6
There is nothing to do on Grand Manan. No mall, movie theater, no pub. Still we have been busier than bees in a clover field for the past few days exploring the place and getting to know people. Squid jigging at midnight at the fisherman’s wharf, hiking to Hay Point with the Monday Morning Hikers, sitting around a beach fire watching fireworks pop from several spots along the shore including our own, riding out with the pile driver to observe repairs on the Intruder weir and to Dark Harbour to watch the seining of that weir have all been part of the orientation for our visitors to island life.

We are so grateful for the great generosity of islanders who’ve been sharing their stories and educating us about the state of the fishery and concerns about its future.

Jan gathering firewood at the Whistle

Jan gathering firewood at the Whistle


Bog orchids galore















Page and I took a walk at the Anchorage Park and into the Bog Trail where we found orchids and pitcher plants blooming, and tassels of wild cotton topping their stalks. We were up to our ankles in wet peat, but that was no price to pay for the strange beauty of the plants adapted to this habitat.

Carnivorous pitcher plant

Carnivorous pitcher plant

The Grand Manan students have been great ambassadors for the island, as they work on projects about the places that mean something to them and the stories that come out of those places: Dark Harbour, Cheney’s Passage, Stanley’s Beach, Eel Lake, Seal Cove, out on the water and more.

Lawron, Mackenzie and Harley heading to Kent Island

Lawron, Mackenzie and Harley heading to Kent Island

Day 7
Today we all made a field trip to the Bowdoin College Scientific Station on Kent Island, thanks to Russell Ingalls who ran us over from Seal Cove through thick fog. 

Russell Ingalls, Michael Brown and Jan Bindas-Tenney.  Heading for Kent in the fog, "if we we can find it."

Russell Ingalls, Michael Brown and Jan Bindas-Tenney. Heading for Kent in the fog, “if we we can find it.”

Damon Gannon, Director of the station, told us about research being done on the 40 -50,000 Leach’s Storm Petrels, oceanic birds that nest in forest burrows on this small island. Here’s the link to the Bowdoin College Kent Island Scientific Station:

Peter Cunningham took us to Fog Heaven where we learned about the work his father Robert Cunningham did here for 60 years or so studying fog. “A pure scientist,” Peter calls him, just as Peter is “a pure photographer,” both of them moved by a genuine curiosity to know. The weather station is gearing up to begin again sending out data, so this site will continue to make a contribution to understandings about climate change, building on decades of data already gathered.

Stay tuned for guest posts here from Jan, Page and Paco, along with some of their photographs from their travels. Harley Cary and Page Buono have also posted very poetic photos on their Facebook pages. Check them out!


July 11, 2015
Our pilot program of Field Studies on Grand Manan has begun with Page Buono, Paco Cantu and Jan Bindas-Tenney arriving from Arizona on July 8. Supported by the Agnes Nelms Haury Program in Environment and Social Justice at the University of Arizona, the project plans to bring students from the Creative Writing Program to the island over the next five summers. They will work during a two-week stay on their own writing projects and with island youth to help them to tell their stories of coming of age in this place where sustainability of the local culture is deeply tied to the sustainability of marine life.

The goal is to spur documentary arts projects that will explore the story of Grand Manan Island (population 2500) and its 200-year history of traditional fisheries. We will explore how the arts and culture can contribute to our understanding of climate change and sustainability. Island culture is undergoing dramatic change with the decline of fish in the North Atlantic and the rise of corporate aquaculture. But climate change has also meant a boom for the lobster fishery, as lobsters move north for colder waters and new markets have developed in Asia.


Page caught this iconic view of Swallowtail Lighthouse with the Grand Manan V rounding the bend on its way to North Head.

Day 1 and 2
We began Thursday with an early breakfast with the Grand Manan Rotary Club, where our group was joined by Carly Fleet who has been our able liaison with school and community.

Grand Manan high school teacher, chef and tour guide Robbie Griffin gave us a full day’s tour beginning with the first Anglo settlement at Bonney Brook in 1779, and running all the way from Southwest Head to Swallowtail. We were especially interested to see the new lobster tank storage facility and learn a bit about how lobsters find their way to market. We experienced true island hospitality throughout the day, but Robbie’s lunch was epic. Seafood chowder, lobster rolls and strawberry shortcake. What a welcome. Liam Watkins joined us for the day, a talented Grand Manan student (just graduated!) who had recently built himself a mahogany electric guitar.



McLaughlin’s Wharf in Seal Cove

Day 2
We planned to do independent research on Friday (Paco contemplating border issues and island life, Jan exploring Dark Harbour and setting up interviews with fishermen, Page writing and making watercolors), but that plan was interrupted when I spotted from my second floor deck that the pile driver had been towed out to the herring weir known as Intruder. This was a rare opportunity for us to get out to Swallowtail and perch on the cliff above the weir to watch construction as the bottom stakes were driven into the seabed and top poles attached.

Here is the Intruder in previous summer, all strung up with twine and ready to capture herring that venture near shore.

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We ended the day with a beach fire and had a chance to see Liam’s amazing guitar–well, a few of them–and hear a few tunes from him, Mackenzie Russell and Harley Cary on a warm summer evening by the sea. Writers call such moments research. It’s a tough life.


On Ruin and Renewal

Grand MananAlison Hawthorne Deming pens guest editorial for

A winter storms into its galactic arms. New York City took a major hit. I happened at the time to be on Grand Manan Island watching the Bay of Fundy churn, the surf rake rock against rock on the Castalia shore in front of my home.

I’d come to my family’s retreat in Atlantic Canada for a much needed week of writing. I was reading an essay by one of my Tucson students about gang life in the city. “If he was going to slang,” she wrote, “he’d better get strapped up.” A drug dealer was out for justice over the mismeasure of his goods. He was heading for a club, armed and righteous. This is not fiction. This is the daily life of one student, a woman who comes to class wearing a white wife-beater that showcases her spectacular tattoos. She has a smile as warm as Oprah. Sometimes there’s a sheepish quality to it, as if she’s asking, “What am I doing in this movie?” She knows how to use a Glock. “You’re gonna need it,” her boyfriend said, looking after her. She’s lost so many friends to the street, she’s afraid to count them. Still, she feels pride in belonging, hanging with a guy who wants to put Tucson on the map, wants to make it as badass as L.A. or New York.

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