The Québec maritime Blog

Do you know what a “ponchon” is?

© Tourisme Îles de la MadeleineThe word “ponchon” is the term used in Îles de la Madeleine to designate a molasses cask, and it’s also the subject of one of the most popular stories of that region.

In the early 20th century, when winter came, the only way people of the Islands could communicate with the rest of the world was the telegraph. But during the winter of 1910, the underwater cable that provided the vital link with the continent broke. With no mean of communication and concerned that they might run out of supplies sooner or later, islanders decided to launch at sea a ponchon equipped with a sail, in which they had put letters for the governments, asking for their help.

Two weeks later, the ponchon was found on a beach of Cape Breton Island by a passer-by. He opened the cask, read the letters and, realizing the gravity of the situation, took upon himself to mail them. Sometime later, ships arrived on the Islands to provide assistance to the population. Amazing story, isn’t it?

Travel to Îles de la Madeleine to discover its rich and colourful repertoire of tales and legends. You won’t be disappointed!


Photo credit: Illustration from the Îles de la Madeleine Tourist Guide.

Author Jean-Pascal Côté

A certified translator and avid outdoorsman, Jean-Pascal Côté works as a freelance writer and translator in Bas-Saint-Laurent, the region where he was born. He regularly escapes his daily life by going road biking, cycle touring or cyclocross racing, skiing in the mountains of Bas-Saint-Laurent or Western Canada, or sea kayaking on the St. Lawrence River. He is constantly dreaming up new travel plans. He also blogs (on an admittedly irregular basis) about his cycle touring adventures.

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