The Magdalen Islands, also known as Îles de la Madeleine, have a long history of shipwrecks. In the 18th and 19th centuries, an estimated 500 vessels fell victim to the shifting sands and shallow waters of the Magdalen Islands, in Canada’s predominantly French-speaking province of Quebec.
In those days, there were no lighthouses in the area and charts were less than accurate. In the heavy winds, fog and choppy waters, navigation became a game of guessing and dexterity. Many ships along with their passengers perished in the waters. Those who survived chose to settle down and make the islands their home.
Many of the Magdalen Islands’ shipwrecks lie hidden at the bottom of the sea in various states of decay. But a few old hulks are visible from the beach, such as a 1963 shipwreck on the Corfu Island. Other pieces of wrecks are visible in dry ground in different forms, such as houses. Many homes in the Magdalen Islands are constructed from wood salvaged from the island’s many shipwrecks. A hundred-year-old church is built from the same material.
Today, the island is made up of mostly French-speaking people, with only about 550 residents speaking English. They are descendants of people who came from England, Scotland and Ireland. They live virtually isolated from the rest of the world, especially during winter when the gulf freezes making boat trips impossible. Their only communication link to the mainland is a wireless telegraph station.