The island is east-northeast of the mainland with its northern and western coasts fronting on the Gulf of Saint Lawrence ; its western coast also forms the eastern limits of the Northumberland Strait. The eastern and southern coasts front the Atlantic Ocean; its eastern coast also forms the western limits of the Cabot Strait. Its landmass slopes upward from south to north, culminating in the highlands of its northern cape. One of the world's larger saltwater lakes, Bras d'Or "Arm of Gold" in French , dominates the island's centre. Eskasoni is the largest in both population and land area. Its name may derive from Capbreton near Bayonne , or more probably from Cape and the word Breton , the French demonym for Bretagne , the French historical region.
The eastern and southern coasts front the Atlantic Ocean; its eastern coast also forms the western limits of the Cabot Strait. Its landmass slopes upward from south to north, culminating in the highlands of its northern cape. One of the world's larger saltwater lakes, Bras d'Or "Arm of Gold" in Frenchdominates the island's centre. Eskasoni is the largest in both population and land area. Its name may derive from Capbreton near Bayonneor more probably from Cape and the word Bretonthe French demonym for Bretagnethe French historical region.
Cape Breton Island's first residents were likely Archaic maritime nativesancestors of the Mi'kmaq. These peoples and their progeny inhabited the island known as Unama'ki for several thousand years and continue to live there to this day.
Their traditional lifestyle centred around hunting and fishing because of the unfavourable agricultural conditions of their maritime home. This ocean-centric lifestyle did, however, make them among the first indigenous peoples to discover European explorers and sailors fishing in the St Lawrence Estuary.
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John Cabot reportedly visited the island in The local Mi'kmaq peoples began trading with European fishermen when the fishermen began landing in their territories as early as the s. As many as two hundred settlers lived in a village, the name of which is not known, located according to some historians at what is now Ingonish on the island's northeastern peninsula.
These fishermen traded with the local population but did not maintain a permanent settlement. This Portuguese colony's fate is unknown, but it is mentioned as late as These claims, and larger European ideals of native conquest were the first time the island was incorporated as European territory, though it would be several decades later that treaties would actually be signed no copies of these treaties exist.
Peter's These settlements lasted only one generation, until Nicolas Denys left in The island did not have any European settlers for another fifty years before those communities along with Louisbourg were re-established inafter which point European settlement was permanently established on the island.
As the harbour at Sainte Anne experienced icing problems, it was decided to build a much larger fortification at Louisbourg to improve defences at the entrance to the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and to defend France's fishing fleet on the Grand Banks. Louisbourg itself was one of the most important commercial and military centres in New France. Louisbourg was captured by New Englanders  with British naval assistance in  and by British forces in Some of the first British-sanctioned settlers on the island following the Seven Years' War were Irish, although upon settlement they merged with local French communities to form a culture rich in music and tradition.
From tothe island was administratively part of the colony of Nova Scotia  and was governed from Halifax. He spent his first winter using his upside-down boat for shelter, which is reflected in the architecture of the village's Community Centre. During the American Revolutionon 1 NovemberJohn Paul Jones - the father of the American Navy - set sail in command of Alfred to free hundreds of American prisoners working in the area's coal mines.
Although winter conditions prevented the freeing of the prisoners, the mission did result in the capture of Mellisha vessel carrying a vital supply of winter clothing intended for John Burgoyne 's troops in Canada. The British began developing the mining site at Sydney Mines in While there, Hierlihy reported that he "beat off many piratical attacks, killed some and took other prisoners.
Six French sailors were killed and 17 British, with many more wounded. He succeeded Macarmick as head of the colony and served from to From tothe military commandant was John Despar  brother of Edward.
An order forbidding the granting of land in Cape Breton, issued inwas removed in The mineral rights to the island were given over to the Duke of York by an order-in-council.
The British government had intended that the Crown take over the operation of the mines when Cape Breton was made a colony, but this was never done, probably because of the rehabilitation cost of the mines. The mines were in a neglected state, caused by careless operations dating back at least to the time of the final fall of Louisbourg in Large-scale shipbuilding began in the s, beginning with schooners for local trade moving in the s to larger brigs and brigantinesmostly built for British shipowners.
Shipbuilding peaked in the s, marked in by the full-rigged ship Lord Clarendonthe largest wooden ship ever built in Cape Breton.
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This development is one of the factors which led to large-scale industrial development in the Sydney Coal Field of eastern Cape Breton County. By the late 19th century, as a result of the faster shipping, expanding fishery and industrialization of the island, exchanges of people between the island of Newfoundland and Cape Breton increased, beginning a cultural exchange that continues to this day. The s were some of the most violent times in Cape Breton. They were marked by several severe labour disputes.
The famous murder of William Davis by strike breakers, and the seizing of the New Waterford power plant by striking miners led to a major union sentiment that persists to this day in some circles.
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William Davis Miners' Memorial Day is celebrated in coal mining towns to commemorate the deaths of miners at the hands of the coal companies. The turn of the 20th century saw Cape Breton Island at the forefront of scientific achievement with the now-famous activities launched by inventors Alexander Graham Bell and Guglielmo Marconi.
Following his successful invention of the telephone and being relatively wealthy, Bell acquired land near Baddeck inlargely due to surroundings reminiscent of his early years in Scotland. He established a summer estate complete with research laboratories, working with deaf people-including Helen Keller -and continued to invent.
Baddeck would be the site of his experiments with hydrofoil technologies as well as the Aerial Experiment Associationfinanced by his wife, which saw the first powered flight in Canada when the AEA Silver Dart took off from the ice-covered waters of Bras d'Or Lake.
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Bell also built the forerunner to the iron lung and experimented with breeding sheep. Marconi's contributions to Cape Breton Island were also quite significant, as he used the island's geography to his advantage in transmitting the first North American trans-Atlantic radio message from a station constructed at Table Head in Glace Bay to a receiving station at Poldhu in Cornwall, England.
Marconi's pioneering work in Cape Breton marked the beginning of modern radio technology. Promotions for tourism beginning in the s recognized the importance of the Scottish culture to the province, and the provincial government started encouraging the use of Gaelic once again. The establishment of funding for the Gaelic College of Celtic Arts and Crafts and formal Gaelic language courses in public schools are intended to address the near-loss of this culture to English assimilation.
In the s, the Fortress of Louisbourg was partially reconstructed by Parks Canada. Gaelic speakers in Cape Breton, as elsewhere in Nova Scotia, furnished a large proportion of the local population from the 18th century on.
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They brought with them a common culture of poetry, traditional songs and tales, music and dance, and used this to develop distinctive local traditions. Such emigration was facilitated by changes in Gaelic society and the economy, with sharp increases in rents, confiscation of land and disruption of local customs and rights.
In Nova Scotia, poetry and song in Gaelic flourished. George Emmerson argues that an "ancient and rich" tradition of storytelling, song, and Gaelic poetry emerged during the 18th century and was transplanted from the Highlands of Scotland to Nova Scotia, where the language similarly took root there. It was reinforced in Cape Breton in the first half of the 19th century with an influx of Highland Scots numbering approximately 50, as a result of the Highland Clearances.
Gaelic speakers, however, tended to be poor; they were largely illiterate and had little access to education. This situation still obtained in the early twentieth century. In Gaelic was approved as an optional subject in the curriculum of Nova Scotia, but few teachers could be found and children were discouraged from using the language in schools.
By the number of Gaelic speakers in Nova Scotia had fallen to approximately 25, mostly in discrete pockets. In Cape Breton it was still a majority language, but the proportion was falling. Children were no longer being raised with Gaelic. From on, attempts were made to strengthen its position in the public school system in Nova Scotia, but funding, official commitment and the availability of teachers continued to be a problem.
By the s the number of speakers was less than 7, The advent of multiculturalism in Canada in the s meant that new educational opportunities became available, with a gradual strengthening of the language at secondary and tertiary level. The Canadian Census shows that there are only 40 reported speakers of Gaelic as a mother tongue in Cape Breton. They include fluent speakers from Gaelic-speaking areas of Scotland and speakers who became fluent in Nova Scotia and who in some cases studied in Scotland.
Other revitalization activities include adult education, community cultural events and publishing.
Cape Breton Island is composed mainly of rocky shores, rolling farmland, glacial valleys, barren headlands, mountains, woods and plateaus. Geological evidence suggests at least part of the island was joined with present-day Scotland and Norway, now separated by millions of years of plate tectonics. Cape Breton Island's northern portion is dominated by the Cape Breton Highlandscommonly shortened to simply the "Highlands", which are an extension of the Appalachian mountain chain.
The Highlands comprise the northern portions of Inverness and Victoria counties. The Cabot Trail scenic highway also encircles the plateau's coastal perimeter.
Cape Breton Island's hydrological features include the Bras d'Or Lake system, a salt-water fjord at the heart of the island, and freshwater features including Lake Ainsliethe Margaree River system, and the Mira River. Innumerable smaller rivers and streams drain into the Bras d'Or Lake estuary and on to the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Atlantic coasts. Cape Breton Island is joined to the mainland by the Canso Causewaywhich was completed inenabling direct road and rail traffic to and from the island, but requiring marine traffic to pass through the Canso Canal at the eastern end of the causeway.
The climate is one of mild, often pleasantly warm summers and cold winters, although the proximity to the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf Stream moderates the extreme winter cold found on the mainland, especially on the east side that faces the Atlantic.
Precipitation is abundant year round, with annual totals up to 60 inches on the eastern side facing the Atlantic storms. Considerable snowfall occurs in winter, especially in the highlands.
The island's residents can be grouped into five main cultures: ScottishMi'kmaqAcadianIrish, English, with respective languages Scottish GaelicMi'kmaqFrenchand English. English is now the primary language, including a locally distinctive Cape Breton accentwhile Mi'kmaq, Scottish Gaelic and Acadian French are still spoken in some communities. Later migrations of Black LoyalistsItalians, and Eastern Europeans mostly settled in the island's eastern part around the industrial Cape Breton region.
Cape Breton Island's population has been in decline two decades with an increasing exodus in recent years due to economic conditions. Statistics Canada in reported a "religion" total offor Cape Breton, including 5, with "no religious affiliation. Sydney has traditionally been the main port, with facilities in a large, sheltered, natural harbour. The Marine Atlantic terminal at North Sydney is the terminal for large ferries traveling to Channel-Port aux Basques and seasonally to Argentiaboth on the island of Newfoundland.
Petroleum, bulk coal, and cruise ship facilities are also in Sydney Harbour. Glace Baythe second largest urban community in population, was the island's main coal mining centre until its last mine closed in the s.
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At one time, Glace Bay was known as the largest town in Nova Scotia, based on population. Port Hawkesbury has risen to prominence since the completion of the Canso Causeway and Canso Canal created an artificial deep-water port, allowing extensive petrochemical, pulp and paper, and gypsum handling facilities to be established. The Strait of Canso is completely navigable to Seawaymax vessels, and Port Hawkesbury is open to the deepest-draught vessels on the world's oceans.
Peters Canal. While commercial shipping no longer uses the St.
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Peters Canal, it remains an important waterway for recreational vessels. In recent years, the Island's residents have tried to diversify the area economy by investing in tourism developments, call centresand small businesses, as well as manufacturing ventures in fields such as auto parts, pharmaceuticals, and window glazings.
While the Cape Breton Regional Municipality is in transition from an industrial to a service-based economy, the rest of Cape Breton Island outside the industrial area surrounding Sydney-Glace Bay has been more stable, with a mixture of fishing, forestry, small-scale agriculture, and tourism.
Tourism in particular has grown throughout the post-Second World War era, especially the growth in vehicle-based touring, which was furthered by the creation of the Cabot Trail scenic drive.
The scenery of the island is rivalled in northeastern North America by only Newfoundland ; [ citation needed ] and Cape Breton Island tourism marketing places a heavy emphasis on its Scottish Gaelic heritage through events such as the Celtic Colours Festival, held each October, as well as promotions through the Gaelic College of Celtic Arts and Crafts. Whale-watching is a popular attraction for tourists.
Whale-watching cruises are operated by vendors from Baddeck to Cheticamp.
The most popular species of whale found in Cape Breton's waters is the Pilot whale. The island's primary east-west road is Highwaythe Trans-Canada Highwayalthough Trunk 4 is also heavily used.
The Cabot Trailcircling the Cape Breton Highlands, and Trunk 19along the island's western coast, are important secondary roads. The Cabot Trail is a scenic road circuit around and over the Cape Breton Highlands with spectacular coastal vistas; overvisitors drive the Cabot Trail each summer and fall.
Coupled with the Fortress of Louisbourgit has driven the growth of the tourism industry on the island in recent decades. Cape Breton is well known for its traditional fiddle music, which was brought to North America by Scottish immigrants during the Highland Clearances.
Inverness County in particular has a heavy concentration of musical activity, with regular performances in communities such as Mabou and Judique. The Margaree's of Cape Breton also serve as a large contributor of fiddle music celebrated throughout the island. This traditional fiddle music of Cape Breton is studied by musicians around the world, where its global recognition continues to rise.
The Men of the Deeps are a male choral group of current and former miners from the industrial Cape Breton area. People from Cape Breton have also achieved a number of firsts in Canadian politics and governance. He accurately predicted a magnitude 7 earthquake in New Zealand in November Director Ashley McKenzie 's film Werewolf is set on the island and features local actors; McKenzie grew up on the island.
Bruce Guthro ; Lead singer and guitarist of the former Scottish Celtic band Runrigwhich disbanded in after 46 years. Guthro resides in Hammonds Plains, Nova Scotia. Dylan Guthro ; musician. Son of Bruce Guthro. Cabot's Landing, Victoria County, commemorating the "first land seen" by explorer John Cabot in Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Smelt Brook on the northern shore.
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