Friday, March 27, 2015

Mortimer Spit

We spent last weekend exploring Pender Island, so this weekend I'll see if I can dribble out posts on a few of the beaches I collected.  We spend a week every summer on Salt Spring Island, but other than occasional ferry stops at Otter Bay, had never made it to Pender.

Mortimer Spit is located at the western end of South Pender Island and marks the northeastern entrance to the Pender Canal. It's oriented northward, shaped by waves from the southeast. Refracting waves and tidal currents have wrapped the tip of the spit around to its leeward shore. I'm not sure about the source of sediment - although perhaps it's a combination of glacial material and older Nanaimo Formation gravels (which we'll see plenty of on this island), eroded from the rocky bluffs along the east side of the island. But this is a pretty rugged shoreline and I doubt there's much longshore transport along here.


Mortimer Spit is a neat little site, although I'm not a big fan of beaches that look like dirt parking lots, which this one sure does.

The end of the spit provides a nice view of the Pender Canal, which separates North and South Pender. The two islands were connected by a narrow isthmus until 1903, when it was opened to provide more convenient passage for a small steamship sailing between Hope Bay and Sidney. I'm not clear from the brief accounts I've seen as to the geologic nature of the original connection and whether its opening required dredging a low spit, digging through a ridge of glacial sediment, or blasting through bedrock (all of which might be possible).

Xelisen - meaning "Lying Between" - was the name of the rich aboriginal site bisected by the construction of the Canal. This must have been a great spot, with both rocky and gravelly substrates (different things to eat), sheltered coves, and access to both ends and to both sides of the island.

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