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The Dikes

Upon arriving in their new land the Acadians moved quickly to farm the land. Dikes were built along the outer marsh areas. The construction of the dikes demanded enormous amount of work. Sometimes these dikes were built by driving five or six rows of logs into the ground, laying other logs one on top of the other between these rows, filling all the spaces between the logs with well packed clay and then covering everything over with sods cut from the marsh itself. Sometimes dikes were built by simply laying marsh sods over mounds of earth.

The Acadians devised a system of drainage ditches combined with an ingenious one-way water gate called an aboiteau. The aboiteau was a hinged valve in the dike which allowed fresh water to run off the marshes at low tide but which prevented salt water from flowing onto the farmland as the tide rose. These efforts were not in vain since the lands, surrounded by the dikes and drained by wooden clapper valves, were completely desalinated and extremely fertile. The immediate result was that the Acadian standard of living, while very rigorous, was greatly enhanced and this very rapidly.

After letting snow and rain wash away the salt from the marshes for between two and four years the Acadians were left with fertile soil which yielded abundant crops.


The system of dikes and valves demanded that Acadians learn to cooperate at a high level amongst themselves. The dikes surrounded the lands of several families and thus demanded that everyone be vigilant and ready at all times to repair breaches that could be caused by climatic conditions or simply to soil erosion. This system was so complex that after the deportation the English had to release some of the Acadians from prison in Halifax to keep the dikes working.

Azor Vienneau - Nova Scotia Museum

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