The image is grainy but that’s OK – it freezes a moment in time I appreciate more with each passing year.
Three girls, arms pumping and hair flying over their shoulders, race towards the base of a huge rock formation along the western shore of P.E.I.
It was the mid 1990s and our girls were ages 12, 8 and 5. Like their parents, they were anxious to get a close-up look at what everyone had been talking about – Elephant Rock – which would soon put the tiny community of Norway on tourist destination maps.
The series of photos I took on that summer afternoon are memorable because they marked the pre-teen years in our family, a carefree time before life seemed to become more serious and complicated.
The photos are even more poignant because within a few years, Elephant Rock would be no more. In the late 1990s, the same forces that gave us the iconic rock reclaimed the formation, its trunk eroding to the point that it collapsed into the sea.
A collage of those photographs hangs on a wall at our cottage. I found myself reminiscing about them last week after a Guardian front-page photograph showed a formation that’s eerily similar to Elephant Rock, this one along the shore in Kildare, not far from Norway.
It also resembles a pachyderm, although it’s closer to a hippopotamus than an elephant. Unfortunately, it’s not easily accessible. A spokesman for a local development corporation told The Guardian it doesn’t appear to be visible from any public roadway and is difficult to see without going on to private property. The picture in the paper was taken from a Sea-doo.
I understand the hesitancy to promote Hippo Rock because, like Elephant Rock, it would surely attract thousands of visitors. But if an arrangement can be made to compensate the owner, it could be a boon to tourism in the western part of the province.
Barring that, perhaps Hippo Rock could be viewed from the water, a focal point of a mini cruise along the beautiful shores of western P.E.I. Tourists are looking for a wider range of experiences and this would offer them – and local residents – a waterside view of our million-acre farm.
More than 20 years after Elephant Rock bowed to the relentless tides of Northumberland Strait, people are still fascinated with these gigantic rock formations. My wife and I have visited New Brunswick’s Hopewell Rocks on the Bay of Fundy several times, waiting for low tide to view the 17 standing formations from ground level. Until a few years ago, it was possible to see its version of Elephant Rock. But, as in P.E.I., a huge section of it caved in and fell to the ground in 2016, succumbing to the forces of erosion, tides, rain and wind.
Hippo Rock will eventually fall to the same forces of nature. Like all rock formations, it has an expiration date.
The girls I photographed racing towards Elephant Rock in the mid-90s are now grown and have their own families. I’d love to do a second shoot, perhaps with Hippo Rock as the backdrop, only this time with our grandchildren.
Like the unique rock formations, those moments are fleeting – and memorable.
- Wayne Young is an instructor in the journalism program at Holland College in Charlottetown.