Tancook Island Wharf
Facing West - View of Big Tancook Island's harbour. Webcam sponsored by Big Tancook Island's Harbour Authority.
The word Tancook comes from the Mi’kmaq meaning facing the open sea. Big Tancook Island is the largest island of all 365 islands in Mahone Bay, Lunenburg County. The island is about 9.6 km off the coast of Chester, NS. The only public transportation is by government ferry, the William G. Ernst. The ferry ride takes about 50 minutes from the Chester wharf. Tancook is about 4.8km long and 2.4 km at the widest point.
In 1759 Great Tancook Island (660 acres) was granted to Patrick Sutherland. In 1790 he had to give it back to the British government because he failed to develop the land. Sutherland never lived on Tancook. In 1792 Big Tancook, Little Tancook and Star Island were given to J.H. Flieger and George Grant. John Henry Flieger’s part was 330 acres. George Grant’s part was 280 acres. George also had 50 acres on Little Tancook. Grant and Flieger agreed to settle the land. The British government in the 1800s settled 30 families of German Colonists and French Huguenots. Some of these people did not own property but were known as shares men. To be a shares men one had to come to Tancook to fish with a partner who already owned land. Two of the first families on Great Tancook were the Beckers (Bakers) and the Grasses (Crosses). Farming and fishing were the main industries in the 1800s. Boat building was an important industry on the island, turning out Tancook Schooners and Tancook Whalers. There was also a lobster canning and processing plant at Northwest Cove.
Before the 1900s there was no ferry service. In the 1930s, islanders asked the government for a ferry service. The first ferry was called the Gerald L.C. It was built by Wesley Stevens Senior in 1933. It was owned by Willis Crooks. It could carry 25 passengers. It did its first run in 1935. The next ferry was the S.G. Mason. It was built and owned by Stanley Mason. It used to carry farm supplies to Halifax. In 1939 the S.G. Mason replaced the Gerald L.C. as the Tancook ferry. In the 1940s the islanders wanted a bigger and more comfortable ferry. In 1944 Stanley Mason built the T.I. Service. It could carry 40 passengers, freight and mail. It made one return trip daily. In 1961 the Shoreham Ferry replaced the T.I. Service. The ferry made 8 trips daily Monday to Friday and 4 trips daily on Saturday and Sunday. It could carry 75 passengers and had 2 crews. The captains were Warren Pearl and James Clothier. In 1982 the William G. Ernst replaced the Shoreham as the Tancook Island ferry.