Nova Scotia's 580-kilometres-long peninsula is surrounded by water. With an area of 55,491 square kilometres and average width of 128 kilometres, no part of the province is far from the sea. From Nova Scotia you can catch ferries to PEI, Newfoundland, New Brunswick and the American state of Maine. Its geographic location, together with large, ice-free, deep-water harbours, have been key factors in the province's economic development.
See provincial map.
The Micmac Indians inhabited Nova Scotia long before the first settlers arrived from Europe. The first visitors, however, were Norsemen in the early 11th century. In the 1600s century, the French settled the region called Acadia, which included all of Nova Scotia, as well as parts of Quebec, New Brunswick and Maine. In 1763 it became a British colony and a favourite settlement for those of Scottish descent. In 1848, Nova Scotia was granted responsible government, and in 1867 became one of the four provinces that create the Dominion of Canada.
At that time, the province was on the forefront of international shipbuilding and the lumber and fishing trades. The First and Second World Wars emphasized the importance of Halifax, Nova Scotia's capital, as one of the world's major military ports. (In fact, an accident caused a munitions ship to explode in Halifax Harbour in 1917 creating the largest pre-atomic explosion in the world, killing thousands). Halifax was the marshalling point for ships crossing the North Atlantic in convoys during World War II.
The province has a population of 909,000 people, of which 332,000 live in Halifax.
Nova Scotia's economy was once heavily based on resources, beginning with fishing on the Scotian Shelf. The catch is composed mainly of cod, haddock and pollock, as well as lobsters, scallops and crab.
Fish, particularly cod, has been hit by dwindling stocks, causing the 1992 loss of approximately 20 000 jobs in fishing and fish processing. Nova Scotia also has a highly developed forestry sector with four pulp and paper mills and several hundred sawmills.
The mining sector is dominated by coal production (four million tonnes) and gypsum (5.3 million tonnes, and 85 percent of Canada's total). Other mines extract salt, barite, crushed stone, peat and sand and gravel. Offshore oil and gas exploration has grown in the past decades, and in 1991 the first commercial production of oil began near Sable Island.
Nova Scotia has a highly specialized commercial agriculture sector. Dairy is the largest sector, followed by horticultural crops, poultry, eggs, beef cattle and hogs. Export commodities include blueberries, apples and processed fruits, vegetables and juices.
Tourism is an important sector in the provincial economy. More than a million visitors bring in $800 million and provide over 30,000 jobs. Almost one quarter of these visitors come from outside Canada.