Some of the Friends of Sable Island’s Newest Friends

On July 5 to 13, 2017, Adventure Canada mounted an expedition to Sable Island on a ship named the Ocean Endeavour. There were almost 200 passengers and team leaders. Unsurprisingly and to our delight, many of them have now joined us as Friends of Sable Island. Here are a few of their stories.

George Shomo is from Brooklyn, NY. He works in maintenance for the Explorers Club. His name was drawn at a company raffle. The prize was an expedition to Sable Island. “I tried to give it back,” says George, arguing he didn’t have time, he didn’t have a passport and he’d never been on a plane. His boss insisted he take the trip. George hadn’t had a vacation in four years and in his life had never been outside the northeast U.S.

Renee DesJardins is a Montrealer-based peintre de chevaux sauvages. She’d dreamed of coming to Sable Island for years to paint the wild horses here and finally made that come true. Andrew Sookrah is also here to paint; he’s from Toronto. He auctions off one of his gorgeous new pieces on the final night of the expedition.

Noella Brennan-Fisher of Halifax’s grandfather was born on Sable Island in 1865. Her great uncle was born on Sable Island too, and perhaps other of her ancestors, but their birth records were blown into the ocean. She’s trying to piece together their stories and vocations through research. Noella’s made several attempts to visit Sable Island by chartered airplane but each time was fogged out. On this expedition by ship, she finally succeeded in landing and walking on the sands her ancestors also walked upon.

Brenda Clark lives in Ontario now but grew up in Halifax. Her grandfather was a lighthouse inspector in Nova Scotia who made regular visits to Sable Island to check the lighthouses and the families. He also built a Quonset hut that’s no longer here. When Brenda was a girl and her grandfather would return from inspection tours Brenda would scurry over to his house to hear his stories. She took her grandfather’s picture with her to Sable Island, and was photographed holding it on Bald Dune. “I had always wanted to go to Sable Island. It was a dream made true. Here I was standing with my Grandad on this mystic sliver in the sea,” says Brenda.

Clare Tompkins is a veterinarian on Vancouver Island who cares for horses. She’s curious about Sable’s horses who receive no veterinary care and have short lifespans — just five to 10 years. Claire peers closely at a horse’s skeleton on the beach. “It had very bad teeth,” she says, speculating this was likely due to a lifetime spent chewing ragged Marram grass. Claire is travelling with her mother, Mary Tompkins, from Hamilton, Ont., who is 81. It’s the latest in a series of adventure trips for Mary, who climbed Kilimanjaro when she was 75 and followed that up with a rafting trip down the Nahanni River in the Northwest Territories. Mary sits at the front of the Zodiac that transports us from our ship to Sable Island riding the biggest waves and getting soaked with sea spray.

There’s also Diane Rickard from London, England, a retired lawyer who’s become a horse photographer, and Sable Island wild horses photographer Sandy Sharkey.

Helen Smith from Vancouver, and Leigh and Donald Taylor from Montreal have taken out lifetime memberships.

Young Explorers Club member Justine Ammendolia, who is doing her M.Sc. in Ocean Sciences at MUN, is here to count plastics in the ocean. She drags a net through the water trawling for plastic particles, sharing that 93% of the ocean’s plastic are broken into pieces smaller than grains of rice. She’s concerned but hopeful that her work will contribute to effecting change. There’s another student here, John Imbrie who’s recordings samples of sound and noise. Denéa Buckingham from Australia studies archaeology and anthropology, and is a story-teller. She is a making a film about Sable Island past, present and future.

This is but a sampling of our growing membership. We welcome and appreciate new and renewing members, who buoy us forward with renewed purpose to help protect and preserve Sable Island so others, too, may enjoy it vicariously or via voyage there.

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