What Mother Nature takes away, she also gives back - although it might take years. There’s no hurry. Time, tide and wind are at her beck and call.
The recent discovery of an impressive rock formation resembling a large animal on the shore near Kildare has excited West Prince residents. Many people are already suggesting this discovery has the potential to become a worthy replacement for Elephant Rock, which once stood proudly near the shoreline at Norway, just around North Cape on the Northumberland Strait. That attraction crashed into the sea almost 20 years ago, the victim of the same relentless waves and wind that created it. For years, it was one of the most photographed sites on P.E.I.
The new discovery resembles a hippopotamus more than an elephant but who’s complaining? What is even more remarkable is how this new sandstone sculpture remained largely unknown for so long. Who knows how many years it took for wind and rain and ice to create this latest formation?
West Prince residents are well aware of how important Elephant Rock was to the local economy as a major tourist attraction. The bright red rock, in the shape of an elephant, was the focal point of West Prince tourism - featured on the front page of the region's tourism guide and on the provincial map.
During its heyday, more than 5,300 people visited the site in a single week, making it the most popular tourist attraction in West Prince. Once it became obvious that erosion was threatening the elephant’s trunk, there was a frantic salvage effort. In 1995, the Western Development Corporation spent some $15,000 to cover the arch of the trunk with wire mesh and concrete. The base of the trunk was saved but weather eroded the trunk where it was connected to the head and it collapsed into the sea over the Christmas holiday period in late 1998 or early 1999, leaving just a large clump of sandstone near the cliffs.
The new Kildare formation is accessible only by sea - with canoe, Sea-doo or kayak offering limited viewing. Its remote location poses obvious problems. Apparently, it isn’t visible from any roadway and is difficult to see unless one goes onto private property.
If the landowner is agreeable or compensated, some arrangements should be worked out between government and West Prince groups to make the site safely accessible. Every extra visitor is welcome to West Prince.
The formation has surprised local residents who say it’s discovery is news to them. Nature is powerful but it’s difficult to believe that Hippo Rock could be sculpted in a short period of time. Others became aware last year about the new sandstone landmark but were reluctant to promote it because they didn’t want to be responsible for “having hordes of people show up on somebody’s private property.’’
The loss of one formation is replaced by the creation of another. P.E.I.’s beautiful shorelines are evolving and changing. It’s part of their natural beauty and attraction.