Coast towards Cape Gabarus

Coast towards Cape Gabarus
Photo 2 of 34: Coast towards Cape Gabarus
Taken 2008 June 11 in Gabarus from Highway 327 (the Gabarus Highway) at its end
GPS 45°50.230'N 60°08.224'W

Gabarus (pronounced [ˌgæb.əˈrus] gab-uh-ROOSE) is a community of some 51 people on Gabarus Bay, an inlet of the Atlantic, in southern Cape Breton County. The origin of the name is disputed; the most reasonable explanation I have found¹ is that it is the Latin word gabarus (which became the French gave), used to designate a mountain stream or torrent in the Pyrénées and also as a family name, sometimes spelled Cabarus or Cabarrus; it is known that a Basque fisherman of this name reached Cape Breton in the early 16th century and this same Gabarus is also believed to be responsible for naming Cape Breton Island’s eponymous cape (and subsequently the island itself) after the small port north of Bayonne in southern France from which he set sail.

The end of the main road in Gabarus comes out on the Atlantic Ocean, where a long crescent shore beginning at Rouses Point in the northeast, forming first MacGillivrays Cove and then Reids Cove along the western shore, sweeps way out to Cape Gabarus in the southeast. In this view to the southeast from MacGillivrays Cove, Cape Gabarus lies roughly 6 km (3¾ mi) at the far end of the crescent. I am not certain what the leftmost piece of land is nor whether it is connected to Cape Gabarus on Cape Breton Island: it looks to be separate here, but in other views, it appears to be connected. The Nova Scotia Atlas, p. 24, shows only scattered shoals off Cape Gabarus; however, the Nova Scotia Groundwater Interactive Map, when taken to the 1 km level of magnification, shows a larger island it variously names Green Rock, Bobs Rock, and Joyces Rock ½ km (⅓ mi) to the east of Cape Gabarus, so, if this land is indeed separate, then that is what it is.

The Nova Scotia Groundwater Interactive Map shows a road (labelled as Gull Cove Road in Google Earth) that leads south to Harris Lake, whereupon it enters the Gabarus Wilderness Area and becomes a trail, which I have not yet hiked, that passes inland behind Harris Lake, after which it turns east and follows the shore a considerable distance, ending at Gull Cove not far from Cape Gabarus. It looks as if that would be one gorgeous hike! For more information about this hike, see this web site for a description of the Gull Cove trail. Stella Mann’s most interesting memoir of the former fishing community at Gull Cove, settled mostly by English and Loyalist families, can be found here, courtesy of the Wayback Machine archive, since the original is no longer on-line..

 See the very interesting article entitled “The Role of the Basque, Breton and Norman Cod Fishermen in the Discovery of North America from the XVIth to the End of the XVIIIth Century” by Joseph LeHuenen of Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, published in Arctic, Volume 37, Number 4 (1984 December), pp. 520-527, and available here as a PDF file. William B. Hamilton’s Place Names of Atlantic Canada offers three other much less convincing conjectures: (1) it is a French corruption of “Cabot’s Cross”; (2) it was named for François Cabarus, born in 1752, which follows the known use of the place name by more than a century; (3) it is an English corruption of Cap Rouge or Chapeau Rouge (both in the sense of Red Cape), which latter name the British did use to designate an electoral district in the area after the fall of Louisbourg, but this seems rather phonetically improbable to me. Two works published in France in the 19th century still refer to it as la Baie de Cabarrus, which may well have been the original name.