The Magdalen Islands (Les Iles de la Madeleine) sit in the middle of Canada’s Gulf of St. Lawrence, north of Prince Edward Island. Sandbars, bridges and causeways link many of the islands.
Most of the Magdalen’s roughly 14,000 inhabitants are French-speaking, although there are small English settlements on Grosse Ile and Ile d’entrée (Entry Island). Entry Island is the only inhabited island not connected to the archipelago.
From the beginning of sea travel from Europe to the new world, the Magdalen Islands were a dangerous place for mariners. Scores of immigrant ships, merchant vessels and fishing boats met their demise on sandbars and shoals surrounding the islands. More that 200 wrecks were recorded between 1855 and 1880.
There are six major lighthouses on the Magdalens. A light on Rochers aux Oiseaux (Bird Rocks) was the first of six, built atop a craggy lump of sandstone in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in 1870. In 1871 the Canadian Government built a light on the south end of the archipelago, at L’Anse a la Cabane. In 1874 lights went up on the western side of Ile du Cap aux Meules at Pointe Herisse and on Entry Island, 11 miles east of Cap aux Meules. Lights on Ile Brion (1905) and Cap Alright (1928), completed the lighting of the Magdalen Islands.
Although the Magdalen Islands are part of the province of Quebec, its beacons are under the jurisdiction of the Canadian Coast Guard Base in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.
Bird Rocks and Entry Island were the last lights on the Magdalens to be automated, losing their keepers in 1998.
This story appeared in the
January 2001 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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