Nova Scotia is a peninsula, almost completely surrounded by the sea; no community in the province is more than sixty kilometres from saltwater. The people who live here have been shaped and defined, over four centuries of European settlement, by this proximity to the ocean. The relationship is a complicated one, filled with the potential for great reward, fuelled by determination and calculated risk-taking, and threatened always by danger, death and immense loss.
One hundred and fifty years ago, Nova Scotia had the fourth largest merchant-shipping fleet in the world. Sail-powered wooden vessels built in Nova Scotia shipyards and crewed by Nova Scotia men were renowned internationally for their strength, speed, elegance of style, seaworthiness and durability. This was the Age of Sail, and in Nova Scotia perhaps no single event better symbolized the era than the launch in 1874, at Maitland, Hants County, of the William D. Lawrence at 2458 tons, the largest square-rigged vessel ever built in Canada. All this is gone now, swept away by the advent of the Age of Steam, the huge steel vessels of the twentieth century, and the even-larger supertankers and Panamax creations of the twenty-first.
This Website has been created to relive that long-ago time of 'Nova Scotia and the Sea,' from the earliest days of settlement to the recent past. The 6500 photographs, artworks, maps, charts, log-books, diaries and documents displayed here come almost entirely from the collections of Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management. The maritime-related material in these collections is enormous, and so the items presented here have been chosen as representative of specific themes, time periods and locations within the province. Likewise, 'Nova Scotia and the Sea' is a vast subject, as broad as the ocean itself; this Website only begins to explore the rich maritime heritage of a province and a people shaped by the sea.