During our recent stay on the French island of St. Pierre, off the coast of Canada’s Newfoundland, my dad and I visited the harbor island of Ile aux Marins.
The sun finally broke through the rain a bit and the ferry was running from downtown St. Pierre to the tiny, ghost-town of an island. Years ago the island was inhabited by fishermen who would bring their catch back to be cleaned and dried on large rock beds all over the island.
It’s now uninhabited (although some of the houses looked really well-kept so maybe some are still in use on summer weekends, unclear), at least by year-round residents.
The day we went over was incredibly windy (as I think it tends to be over there) and the tall grasses whipped our legs as we walked the grass trails around the homes to the 1970s shipwreck of the Transpacific and to the former fort at the end of the island. The island has no trees and so the wind flows easily and quickly over the hilltop.
The “fort”at one end of the island is, at this point, a large hill with rusted cannons and a flag pole. The cannons were actually never used as the French government never went through with establishing a defensive base there. The cannons were, however, used for a while on Bastille Day for celebration.
Near the fort is the rusted hull of the Transpacific – a shipwreck from the 70s that doesn’t seem that large until you notice the small house next to it and the comparison is pretty cool. The ship was abandoned and locals looted the cargo – lawnmowers and juke boxes among other day-to-day items.
In the middle of the island is a stark white and red church. Its clean lines and perfect proportions make it seem other-worldly or fake, especially when viewed from St. Pierre through the mist. The shadows are crisp.
On a hill near the church is a large crucifix.
Over another hill and down low is an above-ground, sea-side cemetery: eerie, quiet and spooky with not a few cracked tombs where you could look down in the dark depths within.
The whole place was beautiful and peaceful, with the constant wind in your ear and the screeching circling seagulls. There was a woman running a small snack bar and she was the only person we came across until some local sanitation workers arrived to empty the trash bins.