Stories of the mystic Sable Island told in Halifax

CTV Atlantic

Published Saturday, October 21, 2017 7:15PM ADT

Last Updated Saturday, October 21, 2017 8:02PM ADT

A weekend conference in Halifax is shedding light on a mysterious and iconic island nestled in the Atlantic Ocean: Sable Island.

The island has attracted global curiosity as it’s known for its unique habitat, wild horses and rich history.

Jill Martin was at the conference and she remembers witnessing horses frolic from out of the mist one morning, the first day she arrived on the island.

“It was like we were in a storybook,” Martin says. “You walk into it, oh this is this magic place, there was nothing else as they thundered past us. We just stood still.”

Martin, who’s now a Sable Island author and historian, says she’s a story teller just like her great aunt.

Her great aunt would entertain her with stories of living on the island when she was younger, some of which Martin says were ghost stories.

“We have the disappearing coxswain who supposedly drowned off the east light,” says Martin. “We have Mrs. Copeland and her ring finger that was stolen very special diamond that was on it and what lieutenant trying to track down, where that ring might’ve been and how she always came back she to see my great aunt often.”

Martin’s great grandfather was the 7th superintendent or governor of the island and lived there with his family from 1884 to 1913.

It was a small community where once stately homes now lay in ruin, but plenty of life still survives in its unique ecosystem.

For the past 10 years Philip McLoughlin has been studying the Sable Island horses and watching their population trends.  He says there are 500 horses on the island now.

“There’s a large number of seals and the role seals play in transferring nitrogen from the ocean onto land to fertilize the landscape let it take to affect vegetation to that affect horse numbers is a pretty neat aspect of the study,” says McLoughlin.

The effects of climate change and rising sea levels are threatening the island’s ecosystem.

Some fear if the balanced cycle of life on the island continues to upset, it could potentially slip below the ocean’s surface like hundreds of wrecked ships that have been swallowed off the island’s shore.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Marie Adsett.

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