The Québec maritime Blog

The Lower North Shore: Where Sea Meets Sky

Rémi Savard is an anthropologist by profession and calling. A father of four as well as a grandfather and soon-to-be great-grandfather, he worked for many years on the Lower North Shore, between Havre-Saint-Pierre and Blanc-Sablon. He may have inherited his interest in anthropology from his father, a surveyor who worked with the Innu. Savard regularly visits the Lower North Shore, a region he knows and loves very well. Here he shares with us a few of its attractions as well as some of his memories:

A trip to the Lower North Shore is a journey to a vast coastal land. During my last visit, I left my car on the wharf at Natashquan and boarded the Relais Nordik, which is the main way to get to Blanc-Sablon. The cabins on the boat are comfortable, and the food is very good.

This trip is a great adventure: the boat stops for three hours at a time at various villages along the coast—there is always cargo to load and unload. This gives visitors a chance to explore the surrounding areas and participate in various guided tours organized by the villagers. The opportunity to interact with local residents is one of the high points of the journey. Not only are they warm and welcoming, but they also have an incredible sense of humour: they joke about just about everything.

There are also three Innu villages along the coast, of which La Romaine is the largest with over 1000 inhabitants. When I worked there in the 1970s, the population was barely half that.

Offshore from Tête-à-la-Baleine, in a nearly barren landscape of stunted vegetation, is an archipelago of some 600 islands and islets that Jacques Cartier named Toutes-Îles (“All Islands”) during his first voyage to this area. One of the largest islands, Providence, is home to a century-old chapel and a presbytery that is now an inn. An old cemetery can be found on a neighbouring island, which is the final resting place of Jos Hébert (1830-1919), a local legend who maintained the postal service along the coast by komatik (dogsled) for over 35 years. My grandmother told me stories about him before Gilles Vigneault made him famous in his song. She lived on these islands where the locals relocated for the summer to be closer to their fishing grounds. These islands are now summer places for people who still have cottages there.

On the islands, you feel like you could touch the sky. The low horizon and the wide sea provide a perfect backdrop for unique sunsets. I encourage everyone to visit the Lower North Shore to appreciate the stunning scenery and the friendly inhabitants, to stand on the edge of the continent, to breathe in the fresh air and to soak up the amazing silence. Such enchantment is something special to witness. I’d go back in a heartbeat.

Note: Although the MV Relais Nordik has now been replaced by the MV Bella-Desgagnés, this trip experience remains very similar. This article was first published in June 2010.

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