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The Magdalen Islands
The Magdalen Islands (French, Îles de la Madeleine) form a small archipelago in the Gulf of Saint Lawrencemarker with a land area of . Though closer to Prince Edward Islandmarker and Nova Scotiamarker, the islands form part of the Canadian province of Quebecmarker.

The islands form the territory equivalent to a regional county municipality (TE) and census division (CD) of Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine. Its geographical code is 01.

The islands also form the urban agglomeration of Les √éles-de-la-Madeleine, divided into two municipalities. These are Les √éles-de-la-Madeleinemarker (2006 census pop. 12,560), the central municipality, and Grosse-√élemarker (pop. 531). The current mayors are Jo√ęl Arseneault and Christopher Clark.


There are nine major islands: Amherst (Havre Aubert), Brionmarker, Grand Entry (Grande Entrée), Grindstonemarker (Cap aux Meules), Grosse Île, House Harbour (Havre aux Maisons), Île aux Loups, Entry (Île d'Entrée) and Bird Rock (Rocher aux Oiseaux). There are numerous islets as well.


Jacques Cartier was the first European to visit the islands, in 1534. However, Mi'kmaq Indians had been visiting the islands for hundreds of years as part of a seasonal subsistence round, probably to harvest the abundant walrus population. A number of archaeological sites have been excavated on the archipelago.

In 1755, the islands were inhabited by French-speaking Acadians. When the British expelled the Acadians from the rest of what is now the Maritime Provinces of Canadamarker, they did not come as far as the Magdalen Islands. To this day, many inhabitants of the Magdalen Islands (Madelinots) fly the Acadian flag and think of themselves as both Acadians and Québécois.

The islands were administered as part of the Colony of Newfoundland from 1763 until 1774, when they were joined to Quebec by the Quebec Act.

A lighthouse at Les Caps
Until the 20th century, the islands were completely isolated during the winter, since the pack ice made the trip to the mainland impassable by boat. The inhabitants of the island could not even communicate with the mainland. In the winter of 1910, they sent an urgent request for help to the mainland by writing many letters and sealing them up inside a molasses barrel (or puncheon), which they set adrift. When this reached the shore, on Cape Breton Islandmarker, the government sent out an icebreaker to bring aid. Within a few years, the Magdalens were given one of the new wireless telegraph stations so that the inhabitants could at least have some communication in the winter. The puncheon is now famous, and every tourist shop sells replicas.

At one time, large walrus herds were found near the islands but they had been eliminated due to overhunting by the end of the 18th century. The islands' beaches provide habitat for the endangered Piping Plover and the Roseate Tern.


A segment of the population are descendants from survivors of the over 400 shipwrecks on the islands. The islands are the location of some of Quebec's oldest English-speaking settlements, and although the majority of anglophones have since been assimilated with the francophone population or migrated elsewhere, there are still English-speaking settlements at Old Harry, Grosse-Ile, and Entry Island. As well as the English-speaking settlements, the islands are known for their world famous children's French camp. Activities include sand-castle competitions and a night alone in the woods.

Lighthouses were eventually set up, and this reduced the number of shipwrecks, but there are still many old hulks on the beaches and under the waters.

In the 2001 Census, the archipelago was found to support a population of 12,824, down from 13,991 in 1991 ‚Äď the official 2006 census figure is 13,091 ‚Äď whose main occupations include lobster fishing.


Cliffs along the shore of Grosse Île
Tourism is now a major industry in the Magdalen Islands, as in Prince Edward Islandmarker, Nova Scotiamarker and New Brunswickmarker, partly because of the depletion of the fish in the area. The islands are particularly appealing to French-speaking Québécois, who can enjoy the ocean and speak their native language. The island has many kilometres of white sand beaches, along with steadily eroding sandstone cliffs. It is an excellent destination for bicycle camping, sea kayaking, windsurfing and kitesurfing. During the winter months, beginning in mid-February, eco-tourists visit to observe new-born and young harp seal pups on the pack ice in the Gulf of St. Lawrencemarker surrounding the islands.


The Coopérative de transport maritime et aérien (Groupe C.T.M.A.) operates a ferry service between terminals in Sourismarker, Prince Edward Islandmarker and Cap-aux-Meulesmarker. Groupe C.T.M.A. also operates a seasonal cruise ferry service between the islands and Montrealmarker.[20805]

The Magdalen Islands Airportmarker at Havre-aux-Maisons offers scheduled air service to the Maritimes and mainland Quebec.

See also


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