Louis Gallienne’s first trip in a helicopter took place when he was 17 days old: he flew to Corossol Island, in the Sept-Îles Archipelago, where his father was the lighthouse keeper. Gallienne grew up with his parents and brother on the island and is deeply attached to the archipelago. A helicopter mechanic by trade (“it was our taxi to the island”), he is also a downhill ski instructor and trainer in the winter and spends part of his summers in the archipelago, where he has a cottage.
My father, Marcel Gallienne, was the last lighthouse keeper on Corossol Island
, but also one of the last on the St. Lawrence. When I was young, I kept watch with him. A system of weights turned the light. It took a whole day for the weights to reach the bottom of the lighthouse, and every night, my father cranked them back up. I can still hear the click-click-click of the gears when I think about it. When it was necessary, he sounded the fog horn, which operated on compressed air.
Corossol Island has been a migratory bird refuge
since 1937. My father was also an auxiliary wildlife protection officer. I grew up surrounded by birds; they were my friends. There are tens of thousands of them on the island: common eiders, murres, petrels, great black-backed gulls, herring gulls, black-legged kittiwakes and so many other species it’s impossible to name them all.
Corossol Island got its name from a boat that sank between this island and Manowin
Island. The other islands in the archipelago are Grande Basque
, Petite Basque
, Grosse Boule
, Petite Boule
and the De Quen Islets
. In the past, people went to the islands to fish for salmon commercially—now the islands are private summer properties. However, visitors can stay on Grande Basque, the only serviced island, where you will find interpretive activities, campsites and hiking trails.
Islands are remote and solitary places that soothe the soul. As soon as you set foot on an island, you hear the silence. It’s a unique sensation and a positive experience, as well as an opportunity to get in touch with oneself. It’s worth taking the time to stay on an island: a deep inner peace will settle over you. Visitors feel it too. At the beginning, the quiet surprises them, but then they start to hear the sounds of nature; when they return to the mainland, they are calmer, more in harmony with the world around them.
I feel this way as soon as I set foot on the boat. My favourite places are the Caye à Chaux, which is made of the same limestone rock as Anticosti Island, and the De Quen Islets, which are quite barren but have a unique appeal. Various excursion companies offer boat tours around the islands, which allow visitors to admire the beauty of the archipelago and the remarkable diversity of its wildlife.Sept-Îles
is also worth a visit. The Promenade du Vieux-Quai
, a boardwalk along the water, is a popular destination. There are also beautiful beaches, and the people are very friendly.