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Day 16 - September 23, 2013 - Magdalen Islands, Canada

By Sue Flood, General Naturalist & Wildlife Filmmaker

Co-ordinates: 47o44"83 N – 61o.75"22 W
Weather: overcast with low cloud cover
Air temperature: 10° C
Wind: 12km/h
Pressure: 1005 hPa

I awoke to a grey sky with some dramatic clouds, and light rain, as we travelled towards the Magdalen Islands.

At 10:30am our Naturalist, Chris Cutler, gave an excellent lecture on “Cod – So Excellent A Fishe”, describing both the natural history of this important fish and also the collapse of the cod and capelin fishing industry in Canada back in the late 1980s, which led to a moratorium on the fishing of cod in 1992 and the subsequent impact on the fishing communities in Newfoundland and Labrador.

After an early lunch I headed to shore with the scout boat to await the arrival of guests for our afternoon tour of these beautiful islands. The tour was entitled “Acadian culture and heritage” and gave a fascinating insight into both the past and present of Iles de la Madeleine, as they are known in Quebec. I was immediately struck by the friendliness of the locals, who were extremely welcoming.

After a brief stop at a local cheese shop, we visited a fabulous smokehouse, where we learned about the production of smoked herring and got to sample the delicious result! We then continued our tour, travelling over the new bridge to the connecting island and stopping at various local landmarks, including the local red sandstone cliffs.

Our excellent guide Michel explained some of the attractions, and also the problems, of living in these remote islands. Climate change and the ensuing coastal erosion (due to lack of sea ice for lengthy periods) have been affecting the coastline, and it is extremely expensive to import stone to protect the coast - over $5000 per metre!

Finally we headed to La Grave, a charming and historical village, site of the Islands’ first settlement, whose shops and galleries provided an opportunity for guests to purchase some souvenirs and for others (myself included) to enjoy a delicious coffee and cake at Café de la Grave. The historical buildings were very photogenic.

In the evening, I enjoyed chatting with guests during Captain’s farewell cocktails and the Captain gave an excellent summary of our action-packed voyage! It has been a varied and interesting trip from Greenland to Canada. I had a very pleasant dinner with guests then I retired for a good night’s sleep after another busy and enjoyable day.

The seas were smoother as we travelled towards Louisburg, which will be our final stop tomorrow.

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