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Winter Brings A Stark Beauty To Canada’s Remote Sable Island | Wild Canadian Year

Grey seals and wild horses brave hurricane-force winds and freezing temperatures in this harsh offshore climate.

Sable Island, 300 km off the coast of Nova Scotia is one of the most remote — but beautiful — places in Canada. 

“When you stand on the island, you can’t see any land anywhere on the horizon. It makes you feel kind of vulnerable being on such a small island so far from the mainland,” says Wild Canadian Year researcher Graham Duggan.

Few Canadians get the opportunity to visit because the fog, wind and waves that batter the island makes travel difficult. The only access is by small aircraft, so only a few hundred make the trip each year to visit the Park.

The island is famous for its hundreds of wild horses, descendants of domestic horses brought to the island during the late 1700’s, who are permanent residents here.

The Wild Canadian Year team travelled to Sable Island to film these hardy horses and the 400,000 grey seals that come there to give birth & mate in winter. It is a starkly beautiful time when the island is hammered by freezing temperatures and hurricane-force winds.  “The variability in weather on Sable Island was crazy – you could experience all four seasons in one day!” recalls Graham; “It could go from a mild day with beautiful sunny skies to cold and windy, with blasting sand and snow. I never knew how to dress in the morning – you had to be prepared for anything.”

Most of the time, the seals and horses ignore each other. But it’s the droppings from so many seals that provide the fertilizer that helps maintain the island’s plants and grasses, which the horses eat.

Grey seals Sable Island

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