Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year's Eve

December 31st, on the Magdalen Islands is normally a place where party's happen. Tonight may be different. It has been snowing, storming all day and here at &21 pm the storm has not abates at all. The weather forecast for the day has been correct and tonight it says the

Temperature is -2C and there is light snow.

In truth it must be heavier than light snow because the horses are covered with about six inches on their backs and the plow is on the road full time. Still the parties will go on and everyone will have a good time. Red Nose Operation (Operation Nez Rouge) will once again be busy making certain that everyone gets home safely after the partying. Islanders are so lucky to have this non-profit organization in our midst. Island volunteer participants drive inebriated party goers and their vehicles home safely after the party is over.

An Explanation: Opération Nez rouge (literally, "Operation Red Nose"), founded in 1984, is an escorting service offered in Quebec and several francophone countries under several names as well as in the English-speaking parts of Canada under the name Operation Red Nose during the Christmas holiday season, although the name sounds somewhat odd to English-speakers' ears.

Operation Nez Rouge was started in Quebec City by Jean-Marie De Koninck, who had two goals. He wanted to finance the Laval University's swim team and he wanted to do something to fight driving under the influence. He knew that drivers leaving bars refused taxis to bring them home when intoxicated, not because of the cost, but because they wanted to have their own cars the next day. Thus came the idea to simply offer an escorting service.

The service was used millions of times between 1984 and 2007.


On this day in Our Islands History

In 1762, the war between England and France had come to an end. Canada and Acadia were passed into authority of the English. An English Colonel, Richard Gridley requested the concession of the Magdalen Islands from the Lords of Trade. He was granted a temporary exploitation permit and in 1763, he organized the hunt and fisheries of the islands.

- From the chronicle's of historian Father Frédéric Landry
Événements Historiques Agenda (Septembre 1993 à Septembre 1994)

Richard Gridley was born January 3, 1710, in Boston, Massachusetts, Richard Gridley was the outstanding American military engineer during the French and Indian wars from the Siege of Louisburg in 1745 to the fall of Quebec. For his services he was awarded a commission in the British Army, a grant of the Magdalen Islands, 3,000 acres of land in New Hampshire, and a life annuity. When the break with the mother country came, he stood with the colonies and was made Chief Engineer in the New England Provincial Army. He laid out the defenses on Breed's Hill and was wounded at the Battle of Bunker Hill. He was appointed Chief Engineer of the Continental Army after Washington took command in July 1775. He directed the construction of the fortifications which forced the British to evacuate Boston in March 1776. When Washington moved his Army south, Gridley remained as Chief Engineer of the New England Department. He retired in 1781 at age 70. He died June 21, 1796, in Stoughton, Massachusetts.

If anyone has any ideas on the subject, please feel free to make suggestions in the comment section of this posting!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Islands Preparing For Christmas 2007

Old Man Winter Arrives on the Islands

On December 4th, winter hit the Islands with a vengeance. The snow, even after the storm passed, didn’t stop. It continued until the next week when a winter storm coming in from the west where it had dumped three feet of the white fluffy flakes, hit the islands a second time. The hydro power, flickered off many times during the day and night, only to come back on in surges, destroying many pieces of electrical equipment in the homes of many islanders.

Despite the difficult twenty-four hours with gale winds, all remained calm and serene. The roads were treacherous and many vehicles went out of control but there were no accidents on the east end of the islands. Ephriam Chevarie, the federal plow driver, kept the snow at bay by continuously driving from one end of his route to other and back. However, even for all his work, the snow still hugged the pavement in a thin, icy glaze, that made motorists drive with extreme caution.

Soon the children were out with their toboggans and sleds and adults had their ski-doos and all terrain vehicles on the hills and roads, having fun, searching for that perfect Christmas tree. In the days to follow it wasn’t unexpected to see, trees tied to the tops of cars while hauling a trailer loaded down with an ATV.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Welk Souvenir

A cousin of mine, Tim Clark for TLC Creations, who owns a house here in Old Harry, makes these charms that are anywhere from one to three inches in size. He strings them on chains for pendants, hooks for Christmas tree ornaments and loops for pierced earrings. They are so beautiful and unique gifts to give at Christmas.

It takes many hours to make one, I would imagine. I've never tried making any but I understand it is difficult because the welk (conque, sucker,) shell is very hard and if cut with a band saw it will break into a million pieces. No, the only way to make these is by painstakingly and lovingly working the shell away until all that is left is a cross cut of the center of the shell. They have the most amazing pastel colours to them also.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Celtic Overlooking Grosse Ile

This cross stands on the top of the hill called Cape Dauphin, on Grosse Isle North. It has many ropes attaching it to the hill because the winds must be fierce this time of the year high up above Grosse Isle. I put it in PhotoShop and removed the ropes because I really like the picture. The background is Grosse Isle Point Bridge, the cove and the salt mine in the distance. I'll put more information in here like the history of the cross and why it was built as a Celtic cross at a later date. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the picture as much as I do.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Common Sand Dollar (Echinarachnius parma)

The beaches of the Magdalen Islands are littered with shell of all types. One of the most treasured shells found is the sand dollar. The fragile disk is the skeleton or "test" of a marine animal. By the time the test washes up on the beach, it is missing its velvety covering of minute spines and appears somewhat bleached from the sun.

Sand dollars are from the class of marine animals known as Echinoids, spiny skinned creatures. Their relations include the sea lily, the sea cucumber, the star fish and the sea urchin. When alive, the sand dollar is outfitted in a maroon-colored suit of movable spines that encompass the entire shell. Like its close relative the sea urchin, the sand dollar has five sets of pores arranged petal pattern. The pores are used to move sea water into its internal water-vascular system which allows for movement.

Sand dollars live beyond mean low water on top of or just beneath the surface of sandy or muddy areas. The spines on the somewhat flattened underside of the animal allow it to burrow or to slowly creep through the sand. Fine, hair-like cilia cover the tiny spines. These cilia, in combination with a mucous coating, move food to the mouth opening which is in the center of the star shaped grooves on the underside of the animal. Its food consists of plankters and organic particles that end up in the sandy bottom.

Because of their small size and relatively hard skeleton, few animals bother sand dollars. One animal found to enjoy them on occasion is the thick-lipped, eel-like ocean pout, snails, sea stars (starfish) and skates (rays).

On the ocean floor, sand dollars are frequently found together. This is due in part to their preference of soft bottom areas, as well as convenience for reproduction. The sexes are separate and gametes are released into the water column as in most echinoids. The free-swimming larvae metamorphose through several stages before the test begins to form and they become bottom dwellers.

Since the sand dollar lives in sandy locations, anyone who would like to collect their shells should comb beaches as the tide recedes. The very best time for collecting is after a heavy storm, as many of the shells that have died are dredged up by the increased wave action. Some say that sand dollars are pressed sand that has been dried or even the money of mermaids washed-up from the deep.

The Sand Dollar

About the life of Jesus and the wondrous tale of old.
The center marking plainly shows,
The well known guiding star
That led to tiny "Bethlehem"
The wise men from afar.

The Christmas flower poinsettia,
For his nativity, the resurrection
Too is marked, The Easter Lily, see.

Five wounds were suffered by our Lord,
From nails and roman spears
When he died for us upon the cross,
The wounds show plainly here.

Within the shell should it be broke,
Five doves of peace are found
To emphasize this legend
So may peace and love abound.

Map of the Magdalen Islands - 1765

The drawing of this map was ordered by Samuel Johannes Holland, and officer, surveyor and a politician who had been born in the Lower Country in 1728 and had immigrated to England in 1754. In 1756, Holland went to America where he rapidly learned his engineering talents under General Wolfe, during the attacks on Fort Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island and then again on the Plains of Abraham while in battle.

He would later be named general surveyor for the colonies. A while after that, he was given charge of the affairs of British possessions in the district of the Northern America, starting with the island of Saint-Jean (PEI), Magdalen Islands and Cape Breton, because of the importance of the fishing industries within the regions. Holland died at Quebec, in 1801.

The map of the islands was used in 1798, to established the contract of concession between the King George III represented by Lord Dorchester and Isaac Coffin. The map was clearly drawn by Frederic Haldimand in 1765, for Holland. This map was elsewhere annexed under the original contract accorded to Coffin and may be consulted at the Quebec National Archives.

Atlantic Snow Crab (Chionoecetes opilio)

Atlantic Snow crabs are crustaceans and belong to the family of spider crabs, so-called because of their long, slender legs. Magdalen Islands fishermen originally marketed this species under the name queen crab.

The Islands fishery for these shellfish began slowly in 1967 after exploratory fishing efforts found abundant stocks in the Gulf of St Lawrence. Since that time, the fishery has developed rapidly and snow crabs rank with lobster and salmon among Atlantic Canada's top taste treats in fish products. It is economically valued second only to lobster on the Magdalen Islands and it's flavour value is gaining popularity amongst islanders.

Snow crabs have a flattened, almost circular body and five pairs of long spider-like legs, one pair of which is equipped with strong claws. The upper surface of the shell is orangery tan and the underneath is creamy white. When fully mature, males are twice as large as the females and average about 13 cm across the body shell. Average weight of these crabs in the commercial catch is .7 kg. In Canadian waters they are commonly found on the muddy or sandy sea floor at 75-450 meters deep.

In the Gulf, snow crabs are landed from May through September. Fishermen harvest snow crabs from 16-18 meters boats which have been converted from gill-netting, seining or dragging for groundfish. Each boat works about 35-80 square steel framed traps. These traps are baited, set singly and hauled daily by ropes which lead to surface buoys. The crabs are stored alive on ice in the boats hold.

A gourmet food item, snow crab meat is marketed in Canada, the United States and Europe as cooked frozen and canned meat.

"Golden Rules For Magdalen Islands Visitors"

In 1971, the Groupe CTMA ship Manic became the first 'roll-on-roll-off' car ferry to the Magdalen Islands, replacing the fondly remembered Lovat. It only took five hours to sail from Souris, PEI to Grindstone, Magdalen Islands, instead of the Lovat's two day sail from Pictou, Nova Scotia. With the Manic, there came an influx of visitors to the islands, at a time the islands was ill prepared to handle tourists. There were very little accommodations here and as the tourists were mostly the hippie backpacking who would spend as little as possible to have a nature holiday, there was little reason to put the expense into building accommodations.

Throughout the '70's, the visitors continued coming to the islands in greater numbers each summer. After only a couple of years, Groupe CTMA realized that the Manic was not going to be capable of transporting the inflated number of people wanting to come to the islands, so they purchased the larger drive-on - drive-off car ferry, the Lucy Maud Montgomery, from the Northumberland Strait Crossing to Prince Edward Island. It was during the late seventies, when the tourists far outnumbered the islanders.

The visitors tended to camp wherever they thought was a good place to put a tent. Sometimes it was on the beach where they neglected to take into account the August high tides or on top of the capes without account for the high southerly winds that took place. They would often end up stranded without shelter in the middle of the night in a raging rain storm or worse, a hurricane.

These people had no choice, they had to burden themselves on the nearest home for shelter, sometimes asking for room in the stable for the night. This was never the case, as Islanders are well know for their hospitality and their sheltered lives. They would take these people, complete strangers, into their homes, give them a hot meal and a warm bed, sometimes for days on end, because all the visitors belongings had blown away.

About this time, the Tourist Development Commission was created.

It was found that these hippie visitors would come without money, expecting to live off the land.... When they found that this was not that easy, they would swindle fishermen out of their days catches or housewives out of their pantry's. They would destroy entire wild berry patches, which were the only fruit available to islanders or dig up the clamming grounds indiscriminately, destroying much of the harvest and leaving the grounds worthless for many years. All of these foodstuffs were basic necessities to preserve for winter for the islanders existence.

Islanders were never used to people taking advantage of them. They never knew of people who could kill, murder at a thought. Islanders had been isolated from the world, until the Manic, entered their lives.

The Tourist Commission created a set of rules which they had printed out and given to tourists as they came to the island. The first day the 'Rules' were issued was March 12th, 1979. At the time, these rules made sense..., now they just seem hilarious.

Below is the translated version of the "Golden Rules for Visitors" as it was only wrote up in the French language. Below the translated version is the original French version of the rules.
Golden Rules for Visitors of the Magdalen Islands

Good day visitor friends, you are here on the planet of “small princes” that are Magdalen Islanders on their Archipelago. You are staying in a place of people with great hearts, who have spent three centuries making the islands a place where they can spend their lives.

You certainly desired to come here and have an agreeable stay, if not, you would not have imposed on yourself, the fatigue of sailing and all the expense to come to our place.

You came to be welcomed, then it will be necessary to respect the “Gold Rules for Visitors” that we bring to your attention:

- go and stay only on property where someone of authority has given permission. All the wave terrains of the islands are the private property, except the dunes, which are public property. Take note, cependant that the automobile circulation is forbidden on the beaches and that beach fires must be authorized by the municipalities;

- fraternize with islanders which you will quickly discover likeableness and generosity. Cultivate these natural qualities of your hosts, don’t abuse it too much. The strawberries and clams don’t jump by themselves into bottles;

-you have reason to believe that the fish are abundant, but they don’t jump into the boats, just the same. A man must rise very early in the morning to make his living, by going fishing. Pay him a reasonable price, he is not Santa Claus!;

- you can observe the life habits of Magdalen Islanders, which seem particular, they are the heritage of three centuries of struggle, countering the natural elements impitoyables and countering the isolation; try to understand with reproach;

- you want to amuse yourself by staying in the large natural garden that are on the islands; enjoy yourself but, remember that everything that is here in place in nature has put many years to establish itself. If you intervene on the extremely fragile lands, it will take many generations to repair the damage that you will leave. A tree cut down for to warm yourself or to place your tent on will be an invitation to the wind to cut a furrow of destruction in the neighbouring forest;

- you find that the people here are slow to furnish you with services that you’re waiting for. Remember that the people here know still to wait for the tides. Cast anchor, calm your nerves, profit from the delays and contemplate what it is that you came to see.

With these conditions, and these conditions only, you are welcome to the islands, and your stay will be most agreeable.

If not, you will quickly be identified as a troubled holiday-maker, an importune and you will be treated with consequence. “You will be better then to take the next ferry or the next plane and return to where you came from. We don’t want that, but then truly not, that some days of abuse and of in conscience: pirates three centuries of heritage.

You are ready to play the game!... Welcome then and good stay...

Tourist Development Commission
of the Magdalen Islands
G. Carbonneau

Régles d’or du visiteur aux Iles~de~la~Madeleine

Bonjour ami visiteur, tu es ici sur la planète des “petits princes” que sont les Madelinots sur leur archipel. Tu es en séjour chez des gens au grand coeur qui ont mis trois siècles a faire des Iles un milieu de vie qui leur convient.

Tu désires certainement vivre ice un séjour des plus AGREABLES, sinon tu ne te serais pas imposé toute cette fatigue et toutes ces dépenses pour venir chez nous.

Tu tiens à être le BIENVENU, alors il te faudra respecter les “REGLES D’OR DU VISITEUR” que nous portons à ton attention:

- tu passes et séjournees seulement sur les propriétées où on aura eu la gentillesse de t’autoriser à le faire. Tous les terrains vagues des Iles sont des propriétés privées sauf les dunes qui sont des propriétés publiques. Prends note cependant que la circulation automobile est interdite sur les plages et que les feux de plage doivent être autorisés par the municipalitiés;

- tu fraterniseras avec des Madinots don’t tu découvriras rapidement l’affabilité et la générosité. Cultive ces qualités naturelles de tes hôtes, n’en abuse pas trop. Les fraises et les palourdes ne sautent pas toutes seules dans les pots;

- tu as raison de croire que le poisson est abondant mais il ne saute pas dans les barques de lui-même. Un homme s’est levé tôt au petit matin pour gagner sa vie en allant le pêcher. Payer’le lui un prix raisonnable, il n’est pas le Père Noel!;

- tu pourras observer chez les Madelinots des habitudes de vie qui leur sont particulières, elles sont l’héritage de trois siècles de lutte contre des éléments naturels implitoyables et contre l’isolement; essaie de les comprends sons les leur reprocher;

- Tu veux t’amuser a vivre dans l’immense jardin nature que sont les Iles; régale- toi mais, rappelle-toi que tout ce qui est ici en place dans la nature a mis plusieurs années à s’établir. Si tu interviens sur ce milieu extrêmement fragile, il faudra plusieurs générations pour réparer la plaie que tu y auras laissée. Un abre coupé pour te réchauffer ou faire place a ta tente sera une invitation au vent à tracer un sillon de destruction dans la forêt voisine;

- tu trouves que les gens d’ici son lents a te fournir le services que tu attends. Rappelle-toi que les gens d’ici savent encore attendre la marée. Jette l’ancre, calme te nerfs, profite des délais pour contempler ce qui t’entoure et que tu es venu voir.

A ces conditions, et à ces conditions seulement, tu es te BIENVENU aux Iles, et to séjour sera des plus agréables.

Sinon tu seras vite identifié conne un trouble-fête, un importun et tu seras traité en consequence. Tu ferais meiux alors de reprendre le prochain traversier ou le prochain avion et retourner d’où tu viens. On ne veut pas, bas alors vraiment pas, qu’en quelques jours d’abus et d’inconscience : pirates trois siècles d’héritage.

Tu es prêt a jouer le jeu!... BIENVENUE alors, et bon séjour...

Commission de Développement Touristique
Des Iles-de-la-Madeleine
G. Charbonneau


Friday, November 23, 2007

The American Lobster (Homarus americanus)

The American lobster is widely acclaimed for it's delicious meat and is the mainstay of the fishing industry on the Magdalen Islands. Their shell-armoured body is divided into two main sections, the combined head and thorax, and the six-jointed abdomen commonly called the "tail". There are two pairs of antennae, a complicated set of mouth parts, and two black eyes mounted on short movable stalks set on either side of a stout, spiny horn.

The body rests on four pairs of spindly, jointed walking legs, the first two pairs of which have small claws. Two large front legs provide the lobster with formidable tools for capturing food. The are well-armed with strong claws generously equipped with teeth and sharp spines. Usually, on claw is considerably heavier and is known as the "crusher" in contrast to the other, more slender "pincer". There is a series of small paddles or swimmerets on the underside of the abdomen, which ends in a wide, flattened tail fan.

The shell is often speckled with dark spots and varies in colour from greenish blue to reddish brown. Lobster are great scavengers and live chiefly on fish (dead or alive) and immobile or slow moving invertebrates such as mussels, sea urchins, crabs and worms which inhabit the sea bottom. Lobsters in the commercial catch are larger on the islands than elsewhere in North America because of the conservation methods implemented by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Quebec.

The annual commercial catch for the Magdalen Islands exceeds $50 million.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Joshua Clarke (1992-2000)

Heaven Was Needing A Hero - Like You

This is a tribute to 15-year-old Joshua Clarke, who tragically died in a car accident a couple of weeks before Hallowe'en, 2007, at the turn in Old Harry. The car in which he was a passenger, rolled over in in the field. Neither he nor the driver, young Brandon Clarke were wearing seat belts. Both were thrown from the car. Joshua was under the overturned car when the dust settled. He never regained consciousness.

At the time of his death, he was holding his baby sip cup in his hand. Earlier that day, he had said that it was the first cup he ever drank from and it would be the last cup he drank from. The handle of the cup was found in his hand, when the rescue team pull the car off him.

Paramedics managed to get his heart beating, but he was pronounced DOA at the hospital. Perhaps the saddest day of our community's generation was the day they put Josh into the ground.

His peer group will forever miss him. Joshua Clarke was the treasure of his mum and dad, Tracy and Simeon. May they find what little peace they can, in knowing that their son will be remembered by so many Magdalen Islanders.

"He was the life of the party!" some of his peer said.
These videos were created by Joy31977.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Christmas Craft Fund-Raiser

The Anglican Church in Grosse Isle, The Holy Trinity, is having their annual Christmas fund raiser.It will be held on December 1st, at the Family Church Hall in Grosse Isle. I have been honoured in supplying some of my islands photography for crafts to put up for sale. Ninety-two scenic photos were sent.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Record Drug Bust On The Islands

In Fatima last Saturday, October 27th, 2007 at 7:30 pm, the police arrested one man in possession of a sizeable quantity of illegal drugs. Tipped off by the public, the Surêté du Quebec (Quebec Police Force) from two municipalities seized 42lbs or 21.3kg of marijuana and one kilogram of pure cocaine, with a street value of more than $639,000. They also took advantage of the opportunity to seize the vehicle, a 2007 dark grey Honda Ridgeline valued at $40,000 and $5000 in cash as well as illegal weapons.

Thirty-five year old Yancy Gleeton from Montreal was arrested when 10 police officers, five from the islands and another five from Pabos, Quebec, stormed the vehicle in question while it was parked in the parking lot of the Co-op L’Eveil of Fatima. The suspect, Gleeton was arraigned in the courthouse in Amherst, on drug possession charges, Monday October 29th. He will face her Honor Judge Mrs. Louise Gallant at 3:00 pm, where he will be charged with two different files. First will be the charge of carrying illegal weapons and the second will be the possession of drugs.

This operation and investigation were several weeks in progress when the arrest occurred. The Municipalities Police Force wishes to thank the public for their information leading to this arrest.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Story of Augustus Lebourdais

For the most part, this is a true story, but I have taken some liberties with the dates, for which I didn't feel like looking up at this time. The story was wrote as a story for Writers Island and there was considered to be fiction, so I didn't need to worry about exact details. However, because it is a story of the Magdalen Islands, I decided to put it here also.
The Snowman

Long ago, in the year 1873, a ship coming down the river of Saint Lawrence, ran head on into a disastrous hurricane as it approached the north dunes of the Magdalen Islands. The cold December winds had been coming up from the south, so the Captain of the sailing schooner Wasp had decided to stay the ship on North. But as history tells it, the wind shifted as the ship approached the center of the islands and blew with such force, that the ship foundered on Shoal's reef. Before long, the ship fell apart, and 19 of the 20 seamen on board were soon lost.

One man however, the first mate, managed to cling to one of the broken ships masts and was pushed ashore, through sea ice and broken slush. He was frozen and encrusted with ice but still crawled up the sand and roll down the other side of a sand hill. There he laid until morning.

Some young people came as soon the light of day approached, for shipwrecks were common on the islands, in those days and interesting and much needed salvage could be found. As they approached the sand hill, the man raised up his towering form to eight feet and scared the boys who ran off to tell their fathers about the big foot snowman on the beach. At first they were scoffed at but the priest decided to go look at the monstrosity. All he found were footprints, the length of a yard-stick amongst the flotsam of ship wreckage, and he prayed.

The men came and they followed the prints, remembering another haunting story, of another victim whom they thought was not Christian so they had buried him face down in a sand hill, because the color of his skin was black. But he kept being uncovered by the wind though the people thought he dug himself out and they were afraid of the unnatural. Three times he had been buried and three times the dead man rose from the sand and haunted the families of the small village nearby, with eerie crying wails, until finally they gave him a decent Christian burial in the catholic cemetery.

The yard-long foot steps disappeared and they lost their quarry, so they headed home to face another brutal night of wicked northerly winds with and freezing sleet. Once again that night the people of the village heard wails and screams of the haunted nearby. Fearful, the priest with a group of men with lanterns, searched around the homes and barns trying to find the source of the wailing and by lamp light they found the yard-long foot prints in drifts of snow, near large stacks of hay. Behind one of these stacks they found a snowman, eight-feet tall, lying on its side where it had fallen. The snow moved and moaned and the men cried and ran for the priest to save them from the unnatural beast.

The priest used all his holy water to bless the strange mass before realizing that there was a man, as human as he under all the ice and snow. As quickly as they could, they brought him to the warmth of the parsonage to thaw the snow man out. The pain and screams as the man’s limbs thawed haunted the priest for the rest his natural life. The tales of the eight-foot snowman that came to life haunted the villagers for many generations to come. But for Augustus LeBourdais, his life had just began as if he had been re-born and for islanders who were fortunate enough to work with this man, well..., they too, have gone down in history as being men of vision, who brought the islands into the twentieth century, by bringing the telegraph system to the Magdalens.

The priest and a few of the men had to saw the man's feet off because they had been frozen beyond rejuvenation. They did this without the benefit of anesthesia and when the spring thaw came they sent him to Quebec City, where he had the rest of his legs removed, just below the knees. Augustus returned to the Magdalen Islands, to marry one of the village girls whom he fell deeply in love with, during that long cold winter.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Background to Issuing Seal Observation Permits

The Permitting Process as Seen Through the Seal Observers Eye:

» Though the commercial seal hunt occurs in public space (the northwest Atlantic Ocean), the Canadian government restricts observation of it by requiring observers to obtain permits that allow them to be within half a nautical mile of sealers engaged in hunting seals.
» The observation permits are issued by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, which manages and promotes the commercial seal hunt.
» To obtain an observation permit, each observer must submit to a criminal background check and attend a personal interview with the DFO. The permits must be renewed daily.
» There are a number of conditions attached to the observation permits, including that observers must remain 10 metres away from seal hunters engaged in seal hunting.

Trial of Five Begins

On October 18th, 2007, the trial of five seal watchers began in the Amherst courtroom, on the Magdalen Islands. The trial was presided over by his Honour Judge Jean-Paul Dècoste. The government of Canada, through the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) took five of seven seal observers to court after completing an investigating that took over six months to complete. The incident occurred when seven seal observers from the Humane Society of the Untied States (HSUS) were charged for allegedly coming too close to a sealing vessel, violating the conditions of their observer permits, on March 26th, 2006.

The trial began with the Crown witness, Officer Jean-François Sylvestre taking the stand to relate his observations of the incident. The prosecuting attorney, Denis Lavoie asked numerous questions pertaining to the activities of the day and to the eventual arrest of the seven individuals.

A call on March 26 was made by VHF radio from Sealer Captain Jeremy Cyr, to the DFO, saying that watchers were interfering with one of the sealers, his crew and his boat, the Marika Sandrine. An agent, Officer Sylvester from the department had been dispatched, along with another officer, to the sealer’s boat. They had carefully watched the proceedings from the cabin for a period of 40 to 50 minutes, that same afternoon.

Officer Sylvestre explained how he had met with the seal observers on the morning in question and had verified who they were and that they had the legal permits to observe the hunt. He also noted the two zodiacs that would be used in the activities, including taking note of their approximate size. Later, after receiving the call to investigate the complaint from Captain Cyr, Mr. Sylvestre and the other officer, donned life jackets, which hid their uniforms from view and boarded the sealers boat, which was southeast of Iles de la Madeleine in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

While on the stand, Officer Sylvestre explained that the two zodiacs, though constantly on the move because of a number of conditions, entered the area of the Marika Sandrine, within the allowed space of ten-meters according to the observers permits. The zodiacs were both approximately 20 feet long and at times water could not be seen between the zodiac and the Marika Sandrine. One zodiac, the black one was near the bow of the sealer boat and the red was at the just off the stern.

Crewman sealer, Ghislain Langford went on the ice, after the seal. Using a hakapik (traditional legal weapon of choice) to kill the seal, he then hauled the animal back to the Marika Sandrine. The observers had their zodiacs within the 10-meter range and were photographing the kill with still and video cameras. Once the seal was brought aboard the boat, Officer Sylvestre came to check to make certain it was a legal kill. With confirmation he waved to the seal observers to come and check the kill. Upon confirming a legal kill with the observers, the officer then proceeded to arrest four people from one zodiac and three others from the second zodiac. After reading them their rights, he cited that they were in violation of their permits.

Five of the seven accused are: Rebecca Aldworth, of Newfoundland, Andrew Plumbly (Canadian), Chad Sisneros (American), Pierre Grzybowski (American) and Mark Glover (British) were present in the courthouse to face the charges. The Crown attorney decided not to call on two other. His Honour Judge Dècoste fixed the next date of the trial to be continued on May 6th to 9th, 2008, when the defendants side will be heard. The defendant legal council, Clayton Ruby is expected to call two experts on video extracts, to the witness stand, to prove his clients innocence. The Crown attorney claimed that he had only received the new information from the defense, the evening before and had not had the time to examine the reports of these expert witnesses, thus delaying the conclusion of the trial. As of this time, it is uncertain whether or not these seal observers will be allowed to renew their observation permits for the 2008 seal hunt.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Great Ecotourism Destinations: Brion Island

Ecotourism is the new wave in vacation hotspots around the world. There are many who would not even consider the traditional vacation anymore, but rather have the exercise and learn as much as possible about areas that they have never been to. Brion Island, part of the Magdalen Islands, Quebec, Canada is one such place, but it is one of a few places which has limited access - only one thousand persons a year, including the guides for each separate trip they make. Needless to say, the limited reservations are taken almost before they can be given. Most of the reservations are taken as a first come, first serve reservation.

Going to the Magdalen Islands includes a five-hour ferry trip across the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. On arrival, accommodations are taken. On the correct date, the ecotourist presents themself at the wharf in Grosse Isle North, on the far northern eastern end of the islands. There is now a kiosk in place for the ecotourists, where they can pay to land on the island. They board upon either zodiacs or fishing boats, depending on whom they have their reservations and sail the hour voyage to the island. Usually, the zodiacs will take a tour around the island first, while the tour guide explains the life that took place on the island and its history and processes as to how Brion became Quebec’s twentieth Ecological Reserve. There is always a stop at the Seal Rocks on the eastern end of Brion and watch the young seal cavorting amongst themselves between the rocks while the older, more majestic Harbour and Hood seal lounge on the tops of the jagged edges of rock, sunning themselves in the beautiful weather. A full explanation is given for the reasons that the eastern tip of Brion is left entirely to nature and no human intervention is allowed. Only the occasional biological study group may set a foot on this section.

As the tour continues, the towering cliffs on the north side are examined at close range. The marine bird populations that nest on the capes are intriguing to watch and are a delight for bird-watchers. The razorbill that looks like miniature penguins, and the Atlantic Puffins in all their splendor, can often be approached while they are sitting on the water, because they are sometimes too heavy from feeding to lift off. There are Large Cormorants that are as black as can be imagined and blacked-legged Kittiwakes with their interesting calls. The birds are so numerous that when in flight, they cover the sky and block out the sun. The capes on the north side of Brion are also an excellent opportunity to view the stages of the evolution of the islands and of the Saint Lawrence basin because the eons are clearly etched into the rock walls. As the tour moves on, the caves can be looked at and how the many shipwrecks saw their last days on the rocks of Brion Island. The sight becomes living history of the evolution of navigation and its reasons for being.

The zodiac part of the tour ends, when the boat rounds the western end of the island, except for the return voyage to the wharf in Grosse Isle. Here the passengers disembark beside an old fishing wharf, that is now nothing more than a hazard, and they walk up the hill to the Brion Island Interpretation Center, which was the cookhouse for the fishermen, who would come to the island in the early spring and stay until late fall, harvesting the fruitful waters, back in the 1950's and 60's. A tour of the cook house and the surrounding outbuildings - the foundation of the saline or salting factory, the boat-haulers building, the fishermen’s camps, the outhouses are all part of the tour. Up over the savage campground hill to examine the now fully automated lighthouse and understand why lighthouse-keeper spent many nights in lonely watch for the ships that would pass in the night, hoping that it wouldn’t be the night that one would come up on the rocks. A climb down onto the sandy beach for a couple of hours of swimming and relaxing is made before the return to civilization.

As a separate part of the tour there is the long trek to the area known as the deserted Dingwell property, house and the Saddle. This trip is done on foot over the top of the northern capes, up hills and down in valleys, for a five-hour hike, which is not recommended for the physically weak. The trip can only be made with a registered Brion Island tour guide, who is in contact with the mainland and is trained in life saving techniques. The guide continues the tour with more comprehensive information of the peoples of Brion Island, how they came to be there, how they lived in such isolation and the reasons for their departure, since the island once had a thriving, rich culture who cultivated its fertile soil. A more in-depth study of the shipwrecks is given and local folk-lore of the days and nights that passed on this island. More bird-watching is possible from the tops of the capes.

By the time the ecotourists are ready to board the zodiacs or fishing boats upon which they came, they find they are weary and completely convinced that it was worth the trouble and expense to get to Brion Island. The photo opportunities were stunning to say the least. The guided tours were comprehensive in the two official Canadian languages. The presentation of the information was colorful and intimate and the people, whom they met friendly and helpful to a fault sometimes, making the trip an eventful one, but as safe as possible. The sail back to Grosse Isle is usually quiet. They pass the navigation buoys that the ships in the shipping lanes use while going to and from the St. Lawrence river, and see the occasional Atlantic dolphin or Minke whale. The ecotourists are reflective of what they came for and what they were returning with.

For more information about Great Ecotourism Destinations : Brion Island, see

Monday, September 3, 2007

Coming Soon!!!!!!!

Due to the volume and difference of information, this site will soon be adding two other site pages completely separate from the original. The first new site will be called Magdalen Islands News and Activities and the second will be called simply Brion Island.

All information pertaining to these information sites will be re-located on their respective sites. The addresses of these sites are found on the side bar under Magdalen Islands Services.

There will be some disruption while the process is in motion. Please excuse the delays.

Friday, August 24, 2007

History Leading To Drug Protest

Stay Tuned For Further Information

Drug Protest At Federal and Provincial Elected Offices

Stay Tuned For Information

Protest Goes To The Police

Start of Story

Stay tuned for Information

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Protest March on Wednesday August 22nd, 2007

Iles-de-la-Madeleine Municipal Mayor, Joël Arseneau Meets With Protesters As Protest Goes Nation Wide With CBC Canada

On the afternoon of August 22nd 2007, protesters invaded the Municipal parking lot of the Iles-de-la-Madeleine. After much deliberations, Mayor Arseneau made his appearance to formally ask the protesters their purpose and what it was that they wanted of the Municipality. The protesters, nearly one hundred in all, were very clear that they wanted the full support of the Municipality to rid all of the islands of drug dealers who profit from the sale of illegal drugs.
Also on the agenda was to request the aide of the Mayor, to back the protest, in their desire to force the Surêté du Quebec, the Quebec Police Force, to post a detail of narcotic specialists on the Magdalen Islands, to aide in the clean up and keep them here for future drug problems.

The group
were parents, grand-parents, secondary (high) and elementary school students, victims of drug abuse, ex-dealers, fishermen, business people, young and old, convened at the islands central wharf in Grindstone at 11:00am to start the protest. The walked up to main street and through the middle of town as far as the municipal town hall. All the while the gathered protest members who believed in their cause. After chanting "NO MORE DRUGS - ASSEZ C'EST ASSEZ (ENOUGH IS ENOUGH)" in front for the town hall for a while, Mr. Arseneau came to speak to the Anti Protesters, asking what it was that he could do to help.

The protesting group continued to grow, during the noon hour, as members of the business community took their lunch hour, to add to the protest number
s. After speaking with the mayor, the group continued to main street, where they protested to the high volume automobile traffic. During this procession the Quebec Police Force were conspicuously absent. However, far in the corner of the large parking lot, behind employees vehicles, one lone Surete du Quebec pickup hovered about to breakup the protest if it had turned ugly.

Please return for more to the story and photos, tomorrow!!!!