Visiting the French Island of Ile aux Marins


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Tantalisingly close to where we anchored was L’Île-aux-Marins meaning The Island of the Sailors. How could we not want to go and visit? Before 1931 it had a less glamorous name and was called Île-aux-Chiens, meaning Island of the Dogs and before you say it yes there is a lot of difference between sailors and dogs!

The island is 1,500 metres (0.93 mi) long and its width varies between 100 to 400 metres (330 to 1,310 ft). Its highest point, Cape Beaudry, is only 35 metres (115 ft) above mean sea level.

We went ashore in Zodiacs and landed onto a sturdy and well protected jetty.

The island was first settled in 1604 and during its heyday was rather crowded given that it had a population approaching 700. Its shoreline lined with rocks made it the ideal place to lay out the cod to dry

The fishermen moved away onto the adjacent St Pierre leaving the island uninhabited since 1965 save for some folk who have summer homes there and who live on the island from May until November.

Today the island is a sort of ghost town that has a number of unique buildings that you can visit either on your own or with the help of a local guide.

La Maison Jézéquel for example was once owned by the powerful fishing company Morue Française, It houses a large number of fishing tools and equipment.

The Church – Notre Dame des Marins is the most dominant building on this small island. Built in 1874, it is still used for special services.

Other places you can walk to include the Battery, on the North-West side of the island and the picturesque cemetery.

Our favourite however was the Musée Archipélitude located in the town’s only school. It contains an unique collection related to life on the islands and the fishing industry. We found it intriguing to walk through.

Among the many things to catch our attention was a Juke Box and yes we wondered how it got there and it was then that we found out more about the wreck of the Transpacific whose bow section of the hull; the only remaining visible portion of the wreck, is on the northern side of the island.

We are grateful to Destination Canada, Air Canada and ship operators One Ocean Expeditions for kindly hosting us on this trip