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Tuesday, 25 September 2018

From on board: Lonely Lighthouses of Nova Scotia

#expeditioncruising .

From on board Silversea Silver Cloud

Location: Havre St Pierre, Qu├ębec
Date: Friday, 21 September 2018

Lonely Lighthouses
Postcard found in a souvenir store

The waterways around Newfoundland, Labrador, Nova Scotia and eastern Quebec are dotted with lighthouses, some of them more than 200 years old. There are some 150 of them in Nova Scotia alone. Yet even with all these lighthouses, ships still came to grief in their hundreds.

Of course, these days with solar and wind power coupled with modern electronics, the life of a lonely lighthouse keeper is a thing of the past. Most of the old structures are preserved for heritage value with new, stark metal automated pylons standing nearby.

Today we visit Havre Saint Pierre with its Mingan Archipelago National Park, home to hundreds of weird, mushroom and phallus-like limestone monoliths formed some 500 million years ago when the ocean was much warmer. With an escort of a tiny Minke Whale, our little local ferry arrives at the pier of Petite ile au Marteau where Guy, our Parks Canada guide awaits.

Petite iles au Marteau (RE)

“Hello bonjour,” he says in the quaint bilingual greeting that is part of life all over Canada, but particularly so in this region where Arcadian French communities still speak their own form of the language.

“Keep your eyes open and you may witness sea parrots or sea swallows,” he advises, using the local terms for puffins and terns. The French spoken all through these parts has its own dialects too, peculiar to local regions and even villages. So strange is it, that even the native Quebecois have to beg for a repeat. Parisians would die with a leg in the air.

Mingan monoliths (pixontrips/500px)

After a stroll of a few hundred metres we arrive at the lighthouse with its keeper's cottage and outbuildings. Guy points out the interesting plants like Labrador Tea, a curious, star-leafed plant of the rhododendron family favoured, as a herbal tea by the early settlers and Inuit. But beware, you must steep the tea in hot water only to get the mild, calming benefits. Boil the water and you get both hallucinogens and a laxative. We joke that if you made that mistake, you would see purple monsters and crap yourself!

Silver Cloud alongside at Havre St Pierre (RE)

As we continue around the Gulf of St Lawrence aboard Silver Cloud, many more lighthouses are counted including several on the Iles de la Madeleine (which we will visit) and the Quebec coast to the west.

Blessed with cool and sunny conditions (with the occasional uncomfortable wind) we continue south to Louisbourg and Nova Scotia.


Expedition Cruising editor, Roderick Eime, is travelling as a guest of Silversea with assistance from Tourism Canada.