Thursday, May 07, 2009
People of the Point
Not all visitors to Point Pelee National Park are birders. Many come just to enjoy its beauty and to see the most southern tip of land in Canada. The sandy point was much longer but was washed away in a storm a few years ago. Water has a way of remodelling the landscape over and over again. I stood here and watched the waves lap in two directions. I imagined I was standing on a map of South Africa or South America and was watching the movements of two great oceans as they met around a point of land. I remember travelling as a school girl from Durban, South Africa to Montreal, Quebec in a Norwegian freighter ship. The trip around the bottom of Africa was rough and I recall being sick. The rest of the four week trip seemed smooth in comparison, but perhaps I was just used to the roll of the waves by then.
My husband stood near the previous site of a marine rescue station that was built on the west side of the point. Lake Erie is relatively shallow and the currents are treacherous in this area. Many shipwrecks have occurred during fierce storms and the brave men of the rescue unit would set out in bad weather to save stranded seamen. There were a number of historical plaques at the Leamington marina and harbour with details of some of the more famous shipwrecks which happened between Pelee Point and Pelee Island.
I often wondered why Grandma used to visit Jack Miner's for spring birding rather than Point Pelee. In her day most of the land was privately owned and cottages, farms, fisheries, hotels and even a school occupied the point. On May 29, 1918 the point was designated as a National Park, but it took many years for the government to acquire all the private land and gradually transform it to a nature sanctuary. The human history of the area is described in more detail on this site. These cultivated daffodils were blooming where a person once lived but the land has been allowed to return to a naturalized state.
The sensitive, shifting land of the point is no longer accessible by car and no camping is allowed anywhere in the park. This tram travels within 500m of the point three times an hour during the day and the area must be explored by foot or bicycle.
And that is a good thing indeed!