Pictou Island has traditionally been ice bound as the Northumberland Strait freezes and ice moves through the Strait, usually from December/January to April/May of each year.
The waters of the Strait were and are not dependable in the winter season. The conditions are infamously unpredictable as anyone would know who has experienced an Atlantic Canadian winter storm near the water. Life on the frozen water must have been a bitter and dreadful experience.
The main way to get to or from Pictou Island during the winter months before the arrival of the airplane was by ice boat.
Horse and bobsled were sometimes used as transportation when heavy pan ice formed between the island and the mainland. Dog sleds were not used for fear that dogs would be drowned or be crushed in the ice.
In 1921, March 9th and 10th, Ward MacCallum, alone, made the trip to Pictou on the ice. He had his favorite horse, Collie, a stallion that he had bought from Phillip Clarke, Caribou. The trip to the mainland was successful. He came on the ice, through the Big Entrance and to Simpson's shore. Then, by road, he went to Pictou.
On the home crossing, some miles from the Caribou Shore, Ward saw water, a split about 4 feet. There was no turning back. It would cause too many worries on the Island. It was a few winters before the telephone. He must go home. He had groceries in a big bag. This, he tied to the top collar of the harness. He took the bottom of the sled off, put it across the open water as a platform or bridge. He then drove the stallion around in a circle apiece off to come straight onto the bridge. He used the whip. Collie galloped across the make shift bridge to safety. They did not stop to go back and get the missing part of the sled - just made for home and glad to be safe.
-Ruth Munro, 1984, "Pictou Island"
During a long cold winter, the ice in the Strait can grow until it is nearly continuous, and there have been reports of brave souls walking all the way across.
From the Diary of Mrs. Hector MacDonald (Jessie MacCallum)
1921 Diary Entry - Mailman walked to Pictou and back on the ice.
1921, February 20: Charlie Turple walked to Pictou.