The Mysterious Magdalens

No crime, no lawyers, no movies, no traffic problem, no frogs—truly, the Magdalens are Canada's strangest isles

BEVERLEY OWEN December 1 1932

The Mysterious Magdalens

No crime, no lawyers, no movies, no traffic problem, no frogs—truly, the Magdalens are Canada's strangest isles

BEVERLEY OWEN December 1 1932

The Mysterious Magdalens

No crime, no lawyers, no movies, no traffic problem, no frogs—truly, the Magdalens are Canada's strangest isles

BEVERLEY OWEN

HERE is a community of 8,000 Canadians who seem to have sidestepped the twentieth century. Though surrounded by all the elements that make this a delirious and complicated age, they are not of it. Most of them appear oblivious and the remainder indifferent. They live within stern barriers set up by Nature and buttressed by their own traits of character and traditional outlook. Ninety per cent of these Canadians have never seen a train or a building more than two stories high. Nor have they ridden in an elevator. An electric sign or a fire engine are things they may only imagine. „

In this community there are no p>j\ce because there is no crime. If some petty peccadtte condemns a citizen to jail he goes there practically of his own volition. There are no traffic problems because there are no» streets.

There are no movies, Never have been any. silent or otherwise. No theatres of any sort, not even a community hall.

Contract bridge is as great an enigma as t»¡e fourth dimension.

Not a drug store or a restaurant. Yoj may search in vain for a sodi! fountain or a peanut stand. A pair of silk st<x'kings is a curiosity. There are no snakes, frogs or potato bugs.

Elsewhere in the country practically every town has a weekly newspaper, but here there are none nor any other kind of publication. There are no news stands, and only a few families subscribe to outside newspapers and magazines. Their only acquaintance with electric power is through the humble dry-cell battery and the lightning that flashes across the sky.

Yet there are thirty-three schools, including an academy and convent, and a dozen churches. Within forty-eight hours travelling time lies Montreal or New York; less than a day away are Halifax and Saint John. The great shipping lanes of the St. Lawrence River jjass their d(K>rs, but they mean nothing more than so much black smoke on the horizon and a Hood of port-hole illumination.

These 8,(XX) Canadians live on a string of islands. Emerging from the morning mist, these islands are the mysterious Magdalens.

Amherst, Grindstone, Alright. Wolf,

Coffin and Grosse islands, the main group, are guarded by four sentry islandsEntry,

Deadman, Bryon and Bird Rock, one in each quarter of the compass. Altogether, these islands muster about 55,000 acres and form a crescent sixty miles long. The southern point lies about seventy miles

north of the Province of Prince Edward Island, and the northeastern outposts reach the centre of the St. Lawrence Gulf.

Quaint, temperamental isles in a majestic setting, the Magdalens range in tone and color from the pastoral beauty of undulating farm lands high on the slopes of conical hills, with white, red-roofed cottages nestling in copses of spruce, pine and juniper, to the sullen vindictiveness of rust-hued, ironbound crags frowning down hundreds of feet upon rocky ledges, treacherous table reefs, shoals and swirling eddies.

Standing within Canada’s front porch like a group of nervous strangers, isolated and insular, they are the least known jxirt of the Dominion’s populated belt. No section is so lacking in written record. To the few visitors who land on their shores they offer a kaleidoscopic flash-back to the mauve decade. A few scattered motor cars and the radio are the only concessions to the m<x>d of the outer world. The people, 6,500 of whom are Acadian French and the remainder of English, Irish and Scottish descent, might easily be citizens of another country or form a tiny principality or republic of their own a last stronghold of the horse and buggy, the kerosene lamp and the feather bed. In atmosphere and movement, in the appearance and deportment of the population, the fishermen and fisher women—not to overlook the ruddy cheeked, demure fishergirls—there is a reflection of the pre-war coves and coastal villages of Brittany.

Although the Magdalens form a county of the Province of Quebec, administrative machinery must stretch through New Brunswick and Nova Scotia or Prince Edward Island to reach them. The only normal means of contact is an 800-ton passenger, mail and freight ship, plying twice weekly from Pictou, N.S., via Souris, P.E.I., in summer, and an irregular airplane service in winter. Cable connection, maintained for years, has been replaced by wireless.

The Graveyard of Ships

TMPRESSIONS of the Magdalens depend largely on the * medium of acquaintance. With the summer sun beating upon a placid gulf, the swells driven rhythmically before a light, southern breeze, the islands, looming in the middle distance, look serene and idyllic. The 580-foot summit of Entry island stands out in massive welcome. No marine scenery could be more peaceful or alluring. And in a grim, sardonic sort of way, it is just what it appears—an exquisite dream. For it is only for a few weeks in midsummer and perhaps for a brief period in September that the Gulf of St. Lawrence is so languid and intriguing. For the rest, it is the North that rules. For days on end come fitful, gusty, irritating winds that stir the waters into angry confusion, whipping the great, w'hite-crested swells that plunge against the rocky shores, pounding high on the ledges and turning the coves and fjords into churning foam.

It is then, under lowered skies and through mists of spray and spume, that the Magdalens show their ugly side—a terror and a nightmare to mariners ever since Jacques Cartier, in 1534, found refuge inside the sandbars of Amherst

Island.

From Deadman, in the southwest—deserted and sinister, a gargantuan tombstone 1,000 feet long, without even a blade of grass and eerily resembling a drowned sailor floating in the sea — to Bird Rock, a gaunt sandstone fortress of five acres, lurking in the dull, grey northeast on the edge of trahs-ocean traffic, the Magdalens form one enormous, contiguous reef. It is an outcropping of Davy Jones’s locker. Under those merciless cliffs of porphyry and marl rearing from fifty to 400 feet in the air, countless ships

of all sorts and sizes have foundered or been smashed to matchwood.

In one terrific gale on a Sabbath morning in August. 1873, as many as thirty-seven schooners were ripped to pieces on Magdalen rocks within an hour, their crews either drowned or pounded to death. The shores are dotted with the graves of mariners. At one spot on East Point, Grosse Island, 200 victims of the wreck of the Irish immigrant ship Miracle lie buried together.

The writer has more than a vague idea of the meaning of a Magdalens disaster, for thirty-one years ago, when he was a juvenile passenger from Montreal to Cape Breton on the 4,000-ton steamer Turret Bell, that ill-fated ship, at five o’clock on a foggy, tumultuous morning, crashed bow on against Dandy Head, a 100-foot precipice on the north side of Bryon Island. On his recent visit to this island, which is accessible only under certain weather conditions, he found, still standing at the top of the cliff, the stake that held the lifelines. It is moldy and cracked, but it brought back vivid recollections of a dizzy trip ashore in a boatswain’s chair.

The record is sufficient to show there are more ways than one to visit the Magdalens, and that if one wishes to carry away Edenlike illusions it is best to choose June or July and the regular route.

Amherst and Grindstone villages—uncertain, straggling communities, with no concessions whatever to ordered arrangement—are the chief ports of the Magdalens. They look out over Pleasant Bay, which name is decidedly a misnomer.

“The chap who called it that had his tongue in his cheek,’’ said the steward of the mainland boat. “Pleasant sometimes, but ...”

As he spoke, the good ship Loral was passing between Entry Island and a long sandy spit reaching out from Amherst—as treacherous a bit of water as Neptune ever devised. She was rolling in heavy swells, lashed by a forty-miler out of the northeast, and carving a corkscrew wake around and between reefs and shoals. In the misty distance, the Amherst wharf danced weirdly between the port and starboard bows. It was comforting to be told that the skipper had done the trick more than 500 times.

An hour at Amherst for the landing of freight and mail —the writer was the only passenger—and the ship was off again on another zigzag route across the bay to Grindstone.

Few Tourists

"D ECAUSE of its focal position. Grindstone is the centre of activity. The islands comprise five municipalities, each to a large extent self-sufficient, butithe Solitary bank is at Grindstone, also the central post officé, the Marconi wireless station, and the central exchange of the telephone system, which is operated by the Dominion Government. Here also are the headquarters of the fish companies, mostly

American, the larger warehouses and herring smokers, and, at Etang du Nord, a settlement on the west side of the island, the only hotel accommodation. It is limited but surprisingly good, and boasts the only approach to modern plumbing. Next year they plan to put in a bath. Through Grindstone runs the only

real roadway which has been laid in all the Magdalens.

Reference to the register revealed less than fifty guests in six months. Most of these were Government men of one kind or another and persons connected with the fishing industry. Of actual holiday tourists, there were not more than half a dozen.

Amherst, which reserves the county administrative functions and the customs house, divides with Grindstone the bulk of the Magdalens’ population; the former, with approximately 2,500 people, having perhaps a slight edge. On Alright Island, which is linked with Grindstone by a covered bridge, there are about 1,500, and the remainder are distributed among the other islands. Of these, Entry an.tl Grosse are entirely English-speaking settlements fCntry

being inhabited by about thirty families who live almost completely unto themselves, making their clothes with hand looms. A still stranger situation prevails on Bryon Island, where a lone family of five—Townsend Dingwell, his two unmarried sons and two unmarried daughters, the youngest of whom is forty exist in self-imposed exile, having only rare contact with their neighbors on Grosse Island, eleven miles to the south. They have no mail service, radio or ordinary means of communication.

As one approaches the Magdalens, there is no indication of their odd geographical layout. Even after landing, the citizens keep it a dark secret and the visitor must find out for himself. Eventually it transpires that all the islands of the main group are joined by long, straggling sand dunes. Reproduced on a chart, the link-up suggests the skeleton of a human limb.

Between Amherst, at the south, and Grindstone, these natural breakwaters produce the shallow Basque Harbor, five miles long; and from Grindstone and Alright, two long arms, stretching northeast like a pair of tongs, connect Wolf, Coffin and Grosse islands and form the picturesque Grand Lagoon. This is the Magdalens’ equivalent of the grand canal of Venice; and it affords these wind-swept islands an interior connecting water passage twenty miles long and from one to live miles in width. There are two narrow outlets to the sea, one under the covered bridge, called House Harbor, and at Grand Entry, the northernmost port of the Magdalens, where there is a channel deep enough for schooners and the mainland steamer.

Viewed from the “Piton,” as the 550-foot summit of Grindstone is called, the lagoon at sundown offers a weird spectacle. Through a twilight of purple and vermilion which casts a strange, prismatic veil over land and water, the two sand dunes, reaching out endlessly into the gathering gloom, appear as two gigantic, wriggling, chameleon-like sea serpents, splashing and gambolling in the white-crested swells of the gulf. As darkness deepens, they fade away as though gradually submerging, and the towering crags and hills of the islands stand out. sombre and forbidding, their steep sides flashing and gleaming every few seconds as great revolving lights throw their warning beams for thirty miles over the sea.

Through the provision of small bridges and scows where necessary, the dunes are negotiable on horseback and by light vehicles all the way from Amherst to the north cape of Grosse. It is in this way that the mail is distributed. But the distances are much greater than by water and the route rough and difficult. It is more economical and convenient, therefore, for the Magdaleners to use gasoline “gondolas” for personal transportation and the movement of small freight. There are few families who don't possess a motor dory of some sort. For general utility, the “local

tiress,” piloted by that veteran lagoon skip|x>r, Judian pres, starts out from Grindstone every week-day morning on its tour of the communities and islands. Weather permitting, it keeps to a time schedule, returning by sundown.

Paying his dollar, the writer hopped on board the twentyeight-foot craft. His destination was Grand Entry, and,

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with luck and the wind in the right quarter, Bryon Island and the Bird Rock. Both gunwales were piled high with lumber, and on a box sat a woman with a baby. A crate of onions and rolls of tar paper and tin were among other miscellaneous items of cargo. Inside a low cabin, ten feet by eight, were nine men and a boy, all smoking and talking furiously.

The passenger list, it was explained, was unusually big. Four of the men had just returned on a schooner from Prince Edward Island, where they had gone in quest of work. They had failed, but their failure was submerged in their excitement over their adventures in the outer world. These fellows actually had seen trains, electric signs and had sat on lunch-counter stools. They had walked on paved sidewalks, explored a five and ten-cent store, and dodged traffic at intersections. But in some way they had missed the movies. They looked blank and vaguely disappointed when the subject was brought up.

One glance introduced the Grand Lagoon as the “main street” of the Magdalens, the King’s highway. A perpetual procession came into view with an unending staccato chorus from gasoline engines. The navigable channel is narrow and boats must pass within a few rods. If the Magdalens ever need traffic cops, it will lie here. It is a general meeting place, and every boatload of people had a hailing acquaintance with every other one; the entire voyage was an interchange of gesticulation, friendly gibe and repartee. Once, a very festive-looking party passed. They were rigged out in their Magdalen Ixst and it savored of a wedding. The fellow at the helm, perhaps the bridegroom himself, wore a derby hat. Dupres’ craft was fast despite its burden, and always scooted out of line to lead the way.

Another peculiarity alxiut this lagcxm became apparent. It is very shallow, and the bottom was teeming with lobsters. But it is a Government sanctuary, the whole twenty miles of it, and they may not lxmoler ted. Here and there an xld bay seal popped up for an airing and as suddenly disappeared.

Half a dozen stops were made en route. At a small jetty at Wolf Island the lumber and tin were discharged, which allowed the passengers a quarter of an hour to watch a Magdalen family in the process of canning. The men fashioned tins and sterilized them, while the women performed dexterously on large baskets of clams. At another break in the journey, a group of people were gathered outside a house not far from the water’s edge. Here the onions were delivered, and the skipper announced that an elderly man was about to lx* taken to Grindstone for medical treatment. He pointed to a motor dory that had been transformed temporarily into a seagoing ambulance.

Three hours from the starting point, and the “local” glided alongside the wharf at Grand Entry. From this vantage point, one surveys the only village in the Magdalens that in any way looks like a village. Perhaps it is because the dwellings and buildings are closer together, not spread all over the landscape as at Grindstone and Amherst. Here also is the only approach to a land thoroughfare. Actually it is only a lane, ankle-deep with sand. Aged structures, surrounding it. stand at all angles, as if they had just straggled in, dog-tired, from a day's fishing and put themselves down anywhere. But for all that, they were neat, trim, and their exteriors as tidy as a barracks square.

Within the several communities, though life is rigorous and circumscribed, there is ixrfect order, every appearance of thrift, large families and apparent contentment. Fishing and farming cover the range of interest, most households tilling a plot of ground for their own requirements. Very little produce is exported. The same routine holds in the other communities, life following the same beaten track day after day.

The arrival, departure and movements of the mainland steamer provide the chief source of community interest. As soon as the first wisp of smoke appears on the horizon, the word spreads by telephone throughout the islands; and long before the ship dcxks all of the available population troop down to the wharf, while a myriad of small boats gather from the surrounding coves. It is the one big excitement, for the ship represents their only physical communion with the mysterious mainland.

The telephone is the only substitute for a newspaper, and every Magdalen citizen is his own town crier. Any unusual event, like the arrival of a visitor who isn’t buying fish or selling oilskins, is broadcast as quickly and thoroughly as a world’s series baseball match is elsewhere.

The writer had been on the Magdalen Islands but four hours. He had gone direct from Grindstone to Grand Entry. Within a minute or so of landing he stood in a general store. The merchant was idling behind the counter.

“Good morning.”

The merchant nodded and gaped curiously.

“Do you know where I can find a shakedown for a couple of days— boarding house or something?”

The native looked thoughtful, and then suddenly spoke.

“You’re the fellow who was wrecked on the Turret Bell, aren’t you? And you’re going to Bryon?”

It was the writer’s turn to gape.

“How on earth do you know?”

He laughed. “News travels fast around here.”

From this and subsequent experiences of the same sort, it was readily apparent why a certain mainland gentleman who was stranded on Grindstone two years ago— having gone “broke” trying to sell gtxxis on commission—was unable to get away until he paid his mounting board bill. I íe was still there, working on cxid days about the herring smokers and hauling salt, and looking

forward to the time when a certain rich aunt in Philadelphia would come to his rescue.

“The More We Fish the More We Owe”

V\ TOMEN and girls, while they do not go

** to sea, play an equal part in the heavy pursuits with the men, and do their own work besides. At five o’clock one morning, when the tide was low—their heads and shoulders covered with shawls, and clad in short, wide-flounced skirts and low sea boots—they were off in groups, with their small box carts, to dig clams for bait. Meanwhile the men tuned up their engines and prepared their gear.

Before eight, with the roar of a machinegun barrage, the fleet was away; the women lining the wharf and beach until the last dory had faded out of sight and sound. Then they went back to their domestic and maternal duties and their gardening.

Toward sundown they congregated at the waterfront again to await the men returning with their catches of cod. Then all hands got busy with the preparation of the fish for market. There was cleaning, salting and packing to be done, and the operations took several hours. As they worked, they ate huge cheese and salt-beef sandwiches and drank copiously from pitchers.

The dwellings of the Magdaleners are stout structures, many of them built of the timbers of wrecked or dismantled ships. They have unusually large kitchens, with the cooking stoves, as a rule, in the centre. Plain chairs are lined along all four walls; enough to accommodate all the neighbors who may drop in casually, drink a cup of coffee from a large samovar-like pot, and just as casually leave. There is neither rigid etiquette nor formality. In the hour or two before bedtime it is a custom for the men to make the rounds of half a dozen cottages and visit the community store. This marks the height of Magdalen social intercourse.

Nearly all the stores are run by Armenians or Syrians who came originally as pedlars

and remained to establish permanent businesses. Transactions generally are threesided, the fish companies guaranteeing the credit of the fishennen up to the value of their catches. The latter, therefore, make it a daily practice to check up with the merchants to see whether they have balances coming to them in goods or cash. Under prevailing conditions, with the market price for fish below the cost of operations, including gasoline, salt, barrels, and wear and tear on gear, debits are far more frequent than credits.

A leading Grand Entry fisherman, Simon Derasp, with whom the writer stayed, shrugged his shoulders with supreme disgust and said: “The more we fish the more we owe, so what’s the use?”

During the long, bleak, dreary winter— November until the end of April, during which time contact with the mainland is cut off if we except the wireless and the airplane, and Entry and Bryon are isolated from the other islands—the hands of the clock are of small significance to Magdalen citizens. Time is measured, not by days but by weeks. It is spent in repairing fishing gear, building boats, caring for livestock and —by the women—in primitive handicrafts.

Existence such as this is tolerated because the vast proportion of the population knows no other, and only a fraction of the others have ever been farther afield than the mainland ports. There are Magdaleners who get a thrill out of trips from one island to the other. On the other hand, an occasional émigré is to be encountered in every section of Canada and the United States. One, indeed, an Oxford alumnus, is a member of the secretariat of the League of Nations— which seems only fair enough.

Lacking all the usual attributes of modem life, there is, in this strange, anachronistic Magdalens community, little scope for amusements and diversion. And, although it is under the jurisdiction of Quebec, there are no liquor stores. Home brew is the popular beverage, with the emphasis on wines. At Grindstone and Amherst a certain fillip is given to existence through the presence there of a small professional and executive colony and, in summer time, the representatives of the fishing interests. There are three physicians and a dentist, but no lawyers. Civil dispute is at such a minimum that, the high court entourage from Quebec usually exhausts the annual calendar in one day. The clergy and school teachers are scattered throughout the islands. On Entry, the first school was established by a shipwrecked mariner named Walters, and today his son and daughter wield the chalk and pointers.

Early History

"D ECORDS of the early history of the ^ Magdalens are fragmentary, for which American privateers who ravaged the islands during the revolution are blamed. It is a matter of controversy whether any of the islands were settled prior to the British conquest of Canada. Champlain, to whom is attributed their collective name, visited them, as well as Cartier. In 1720 the Duchess of Orleans made a grant of the archipelago to the Count of St. Pierre, but apparently no effort was made at colonization. Legend has it that during this period and for some time later the Magdalens were a base for pirates and ghouls who preyed upon the wrecks of ships: and there is talk today, among the older inhabitants, of fabulous buried treasure.

In 1786, Lord Dorchester—Sir Guy Carleton—was appointed Governor-General of Canada, and he was on his way to Quebec on the frigate Thisbe, commanded by Captain Isaac Coffin, R. N., when a furious gale arose in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The ship was driven toward the Magdalens, and for a time disaster threatened. But the able young skipper, then only twenty-six,

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managed to manoeuvre his vessel to the leeward of the islands and saved it, as well as the life of Ins distinguished passenger. In return for this service and other daring exploits along the North American coast, Captain Cofiin was given a grant of the islands with the exception of one seventh, or that island now known as Coffin, which was reserved to the Crown. At that time there were about 100 families on the islands, most of them Acadians who had found refuge there after the great expulsion from Nova Scotia, the rest followers of a Bostonian named Graidly who had set up a trading post and exploited the then profitable walrus fisheries.

It appears that Coffin—later Admiral Sir Isaac Coffin—continued his service in the Navy and sat in Parliament, and found time to visit the islands only once, in 1806, when he remained for a few weeks. The estate was administered by an agent named Doucet, who collected rents on a basis of twenty shillings an acre per year or two quintals of fish. Relations between the settlers and Sir Isaac were never quite harmonious, due largely, it is recorded, to the overzealousness of Doucet. Eventually the Coffin rights were challenged, but unsuccessfully, in the Quebec courts.

This legal decision, it seems, inspired the admiral’s successor in the Magdalen property, his nephew, Captain Towmsend Coffin, R. N., to set up an even greater show of authority. Inheriting the islands in 1839, he retired from the Navy, established a summer seat at Amherst, and began to rule like a feudal baron. He went to the length of having his own coinage struck in London, instituted pompous forms and created a body of servitors-at-arms. The latter, it appears, answered very practical purposes, for the population, increased by immigration from the mainland, the British Isles and Jersey, to more than 1,000, frequently were stirred to rebellion. A number, disgusted with their status, whic h was little better than serfdom, migrated to Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Coffin “dynasty” petered out after Townsend Coffin’s death in the fifties. His son and heir, inured to Piccadilly and the London clubs, found little lure in thewilderness of the gulf and either sc Id or gambled away large parcels of the Magdalen estate. Thus began the era of small holdings, the reserved Coffin Island also being broken up and sold to settlers by the Crown at twenty shillings an acre. But it was not until 1903 that the land tenure of the islands became definitely regulated with the formation of the Magdalen Islands Corporation, which bought out the last of the Coffin heirs and other absentee landlords, and established a system of leasehold. This, with the exception of outright settler ownership, which prevails on Coffin and Bryon islands, holds today. The corporation, however, got into difficulties at the beginning of the general depression, and the islands, heavily mortgaged, passed into the control of a Canadian bank.

Better Prospects for the Future

CLIMATIC conditions, which have worked against effective transportation connection with the mainland, have been the chief influence retarding the economic development of the Magdalens. A cable was laid from Cape Breton about sixty years ago, the chief motive being marine information, but apart from that the Magdalens were left to work out their own salvation. Until 1910 they were looked upon as a poor, obscure relative and a navigational bother. Their mail service was haphazard, even in summer; there was no regular passenger sendee, and the fishermen had to depend entirely on Yankee schooners to remove their season catches of fish and lobsters.

Finally a group of Magdaleners on

Amherst Island, roused by the continued lack of interest and consideration, hit upon a novel scheme to bring their plight to public attention on the mainland. The winter of 1910 saw' that rare phenomenon, an open gulf, with southerly breezes dominating the North Atlantic. There was no excuse for lack of mail, but cabled protests stirred no activity. So the Magdaleners fashioned a strange craft, a small, watertight keg, on which they rigged a sail and rudder. All of the population got busy writing letters to any one and every one—Cabinet Ministers, Members of Parliament, Senators, newspapers and relatives abroad. The keg was filled with envelopes, and among them was placed a large, imposing-looking missive, addressed to the Governor-General. It contained a petition lor better communication service.

Then, when all was ready, the keg was launched, the sail bearing an inscription, “Winter Magde.en Mail.” It w'as piloted out beyond Entry Island and set free, and the sponsors returned to aw'ait events. On the first and second attempts the keg drifted back, but on the third it was caught by a breeze out of the southwest and eventually was washed ashore on Cape Breton, just north of the Gut of Canso.

The venture brought immediate fruit, and that same w'inter there began a steady improvement in communication between the Magdalens and the mainland. A weeklypacket service was established and an icebreaker was commissioned to deliver mail at least once a month. For the last ten winters this duty has been carried out by the C. G. S. Montcalm. In 1927, the peak of facilities was reached with the air mail from Moncton, N.B. The deep mists which shroud the Magdalens in the wintertime make this, however, one of the most hazardous and difficult legs of the Canadian air mail system. Many times the mail plane has been obliged to return to Moncton without making a landing.

Lack of deep water to permit the docking of the larger types of ships has been another serious handicap for the Magdalens. For one thing, it has prevented the exploitation of the large deposits of gypsum. Occurrence of this ore has been known for a century, and on Grindstone and Alright islands there are big out-croppings. There is also a considerable quantity of magnesium. But it would require at least a 3,000-ton ship to move the output on an economical basis; at least, that is the verdict of an American engineer who recently made an examination.

Today there is under way a project which, it is anticipated, will not only solve this problem but profoundly affect the future of the Magdalens in other important directions. Under present navigational conditions the maximum depth of water available is about fourteen feet. But it has long been recognized that by projecting a 400-foot wharf from a small island that lies near the shore at Etang du Nord, on the western side of Grindtone, it will be possible to reach a depth of thirty-two feet and a channel leading beyond the reefs to the outer gulf. The Federal authorities, the writer was told, have been disposed to build the wharf, hut held that the necessary connecting link between the island base and the Etang du Nord shore was a matter of local responsibility.

This is one instance where the great depression has proved itself one of those ill winds that always blow somebody good. For the municipality of Grindstohe has been able to proceed with this much-needed public work with the relief money granted it by the Province of Quebec, and by next year it is hoped that one of the fundamental problems of the islands will have been finally disposed of.

All of which leads the population of these isles of purple twilight to look forward to still another era in their strange, romantic and complex history.

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