THE traditional Maritime Provinces of Canada lie on the Atlantic seaboard between 43° and 48° north latitude. An association of islands and peninsulas, possessed of an extremely long, sinuous and indented coastline, most of the area is within 30 miles of the sea while no part is more than 100 miles from salt water. The three provinces vary in size; New Brunswick, the largest and most northerly, has an area of 27,985 square miles; Nova Scotia, 21,068 square miles; and Prince Edward Island, 2,184 square miles. The total, 51,237 square miles, is less than 1.4% of the national area, although occupied by 9% of the Canadian people.
Historically, the outlook of the people of this area has been seaward; their trade with foreign countries rather than with central Canada. Among the first to enter Confederation, they have tended to adopt a sectional attitude which serves, at least, to bring them recognition as a group. In this they will in future be linked with Newfoundland. Thus in spite of the contrasts to be noted in both the physical and human aspects of geography, the Maritime Provinces deserve treatment as a region.
Land Forms, Relief and Structure
Although the Maritime Provinces exhibit no great amplitude of relief -- the highest point being only 2,700 feet above sea level -- they possess a great variety of land forms. In a much simplified and generalized fashion, the physiographic diagram attempts to portray the earth sculpture of the region. In spite of the absence of high mountains, it can be divided into definite areas of greater and lesser relief, or in other words, into highlands and lowlands. By comparison with a contoured map it is seen that, in general, the boundary between these natural divisions of the land surface is approximately along the five hundred-foot contour.
Diversity of land forms must be explained in terms of the underlying rock structure. Generalizing somewhat, the central Maritime region is an ancient basin of deposition, or geosyncline as it is sometimes called, between the very ancient "oldland" of the Canadian Shield in Quebec and the hard old rocks of southern Nova Scotia. Both are of Precambrian age, and in the great depression between were laid down the various systems of Paleozoic rocks, including the Carboniferous which outcrops so widely around the Gulf of St. Lawrence. At various times, this mass of rock has been folded so that the exposures now consist of long belts running from N.E. to Southwest in the same general direction as the mountains of the rest of eastern North America. The youngest formations of all are the Triassic rocks of the Bay of Fundy region. In addition to the folding, the beds of sedimentary rock were intruded by molten magma. The most widespread of these rocks are the granites of Devonian age which now form the Central Highlands of New Brunswick and the central axis of the peninsula of Nova Scotia.
The province of New Brunswick may be divided into four great physiographic regions; the Northwestern Plateau, the Central Highlands, the Central and Eastern Lowlands, and the Southern Uplands. In Nova Scotia, the upland areas include: the North Mountain, the Cobequid Mountains, the Uplands of Pictou and Antigonish, the extensive Atlantic Uplands, the various hilly regions of the southern part of Cape Breton Island and the great Cape Breton Plateau which comprises the highest land in the province. The lowlands include: the Annapolis-Cornwallis Valley, the Hants-Colchester or Central Lowland, the North Shore or Northumberland Coastal Lowlands (actually an eastward extension of the Central and Eastern Lowlands of New Brunswick), the Antigonish-Guysborough Lowland and the Cape Breton Lowlands. No part of Prince Edward Island is more than 500 feet above tide, hence it may be regarded as a single lowland region.