190428 Island Day - matthew piers robertson • photography writing creative toronto

This past Saturday was supposed to be a nice day, so when it turned out not to be I decided to stick to my original plan and spend the day out on the island anyway. It has been a long winter with few chances to get out and do anything comfortably foolish, so I took my lined jeans and parka out of storage far sooner than I had expected, and spent the day finding the windiest and wettest spots to stand. It was an excellent chance to do some early-season scouting before some upcoming overnight visits, and to work with some new gear before using it "for real".

With winter officially over the ferries are running to Centre and Hanlan again, so I took the opportunity to add to my planespotting gallery from the beach side of the island aiport. It was a good day to do it, too – as it happened that afternoon there was a CC-130H Hercules and CH-146 Griffon at the airport to support some search-and-rescue exercises with the locals. Seeing military aircraft around the city is somewhat unusual. Otherwise I was also quite happy to work on my Dash 8 collection, although I admit that my focusing skills and/or 55-200 lens makes for a fairly low keeper rate.

One of the main things I wanted to see was how Gibraltar Point was handling the erosion of wind and waves, and the answer is 'not well'. While the lake is far from the levels it reached a couple of years ago, it's still high, and the waves coming in from the west do a lot of damage. Some beaches simply aren't there any more, and lots of trees have been undermined and toppled. In places it looked the the concrete slabs and rocks used to armour the shore were thirty or forty feet too far out. This spot is a locally rare sand dune ecosystem, and it's not weathering these storms well.

There is a plan underway to add more shoreline engineering to reduce the harm done by previous engineering, but that's several years from completion.

It's hard to complain about the weather when I choose to be out in it, and in truth I was warm and comfortable almost all the time. And it's hard to feel too accomplished for just standing there when I see other people kite surfing or kayaking; at least I can get out of the wind by moving just a few feet inland. But I did need to use a vacuum cleaner to get the sand off and out of my camera bag – never use waxed cotton near a beach, lesson learned – and from my hiking boots.

Every time I'm at the island or the spit I'm thankful for a good tripod and good boots. Both were up to their ankles in the lake several times with no ill effects. That's something to look forward to again when I'm back in a couple of weeks.


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