Georges Island is the smallest of the four main islands near Halifax Harbor. It is also one of the most intriguing.
Though appearing to be nothing more than a grassy hump, sometimes dwarfed by the huge ocean liners which dock in Halifax, Georges Island is deceptive. It is actually honeycombed with tunnels, moats, fortifications and gun emplacements all part of Fort Charlotte which essentially is the island. There is even a small underground railway once used to transport ammunition and gun powder.
Legend has it that a secret tunnel going under the harbor may connect the island the mainland. Though tantalizing tunnels exist below the streets of Halifax, none has ever been found which actually reaches the island.
Named for George II, the fortress bears the name of Queen Charlotte, George III’s beloved wife. Two of her sons were destined to command the fortress.
Georges Island is a glacial drumlin, an elongated hill formed by the churning action of the huge glaciers which once overlay this area. Under the French it was called Ile a la Raquette or literally Snowshoe Island and indeed it is a more appropriately descriptive name. Later it briefly became Ile d’Anville, name for the ill-fated duke who commanded a huge French fleet intended to devastate the British New World colonies. A series storms, epidemics and bad luck culminated in the death of d’Anville and his interment on this island. Ultimately the body was removed and taken to the Fortress of Louisbourg.
Georges Island became an intrinsic part of the defense network for the city of Halifax with its founding in 1749. d’Anville was not the last francophone to set foot on the island as it was used to holding Acadian prisoners after their expulsion was effected from Nova Scotia in and after 1758. (See Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem Evangeline for a sentimental look at this event).
The island remained part of Halifax’s defensive network until the Second World War and it is now a National Historic Site. It remains uninhabited except for a large number of black garter snakes; however Parks Canada has been busy restoring Fort Charlotte and hopes to open the island up soon for visitors. For the time being it remains off limits without special government permission.
Georges Island Photo Gallery
All Photos By George Burden – All Rights Reserved