Although every coastline around the world experiences the phenomena of tides, some places feature higher influxes than others. This variation in tidal highs is specific to each area and depends on local conditions. Therefore, factors like the shape of the coast, bathymetry, and geographic location (relative to the sun and moon’s orbit) play a crucial role in defining tidal ranges. In the northern hemisphere, the fact that continents are “pressed close together” makes for an increased tidal oscillation. Among the places with the highest tidal ranges, the Bay of Fundy is at the top.
How high are the tides at the Bay of Fundy?
The Bay of Fundy is located on the Atlantic coast of North America, in the extreme northeast of the Gulf of Maine between the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. This region is known for featuring the highest tides in the world, varying from 3.5 (11 ft) meters at low point, up to 16 meters (53 ft) at high tide. The bay also holds the world record with a 17-meter tide.
Why are the Bay of Fundy’s tides the highest?
The main reason for such immense tidal variation in this area is the shape, size, and depth of the bay, where the waters respond vigorously to the impulses received every 12 hours and 25 minutes from the North Atlantic tides. Since the bay has a funnel-like outline, becoming narrower and shallower towards the upper section, the oceanic pressure during high tide pushes the waters higher up onto the shoreline. Around 115 billion tons of water (115km³) come in and out of the bay each day, a trait that has turned into a motive of research over the possibility of generating electricity through tidal power.
When is the best time to experience the Fundy’s tides?
The Bay of Fundy features a semidiurnal tidal pattern, which means it experiences two high and two low tides each lunar day (24 hours 50 minutes). In order to see both extremes of the landscape, it is worth visiting the same spot on the coastline when the water level is at its highest (or lowest) and come back to see the opposite 6 hours later. Alternatively, you may arrive at high or low tide and stick around for a full 6 hours to observe the transition taking place.
What types of tides are there at the Bay of Fundy?
Due to the enormous quantity of water flushing in and out of the bay, it is only natural that the tides at Fundy provide different tidal effects. These are vertical, horizontal, rapids & rip tides, and tidal bores.
Vertical Tidal Effect: this is the commonest effect seen at the Bay of Fundy and the one to grant the region with the highest tides in the world. It can be witnessed at most wharves around the bay, through the up and down movement of boats that go from sitting high on the surface to being beached when the tide reaches its minimum level.
Horizontal Tidal Effect: this is best seen in the upper part of the bay, where vast stretches of beach appear at low tide, only to be completely covered when the waters reach their highest level. Oftentimes, there is a 5-kilometer (3 miles) difference between the spot where the tides touched at low and high.
Tidal Rapids & Rips: considering the amount of water that flushes in and out of the bay, it is only natural that the streams flow rather violently. Hence, there are a few locations where one can see tidal rapids, whirlpools or rips forming. This intense flow also becomes evident through the way such tidal action sculpt and carve the rocks.
Tidal Bore: such phenomena only occurs in a handful of locations around the world, which is another reason why the Bay of Fundy is so peculiar. A tidal bore is the formation of a standing wave by the leading edge of the incoming tide. This wave runs against the current of a river or bay, at speeds of around 15 km per hour (10 mph), and can produce rapids that are 3 meters high – a great opportunity to go rafting.
Bay of Fundy photo by Nicolas Raymond creative commons 3.0
Cape D’Or Lighthouse photo by Jordan Crowe
Ryan is the founder of Tideschart.com. Originally from New Zealand, Ryan has traveled to more than 20 countries and has combined more than 10 years of development experience with his passion for the ocean.