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St. Lawrence East

Editor’s Note:  Rex Ennis has written several articles for TI Life and is an accomplished researcher for the region.  Rex answered an email question I had sent him in early October, from a telephone announcing that he was in the Province of Quebec and seeing the St. Lawrence River from a different direction.  We decided right away that he should give us a tour – thinking most of us would rather remain at our end of the River, especially in the summer – but his reflections may help us appreciate the mighty St. Lawrence even more. 

On October 20th 2013 Jan and I entered the St. Lawrence River from the Atlantic Ocean through the Gulf of St. Lawrence. At that point the River has a wide expanse with few islands totally unlike the Thousand Islands. To be sure, there are islands; the Gulf is bordered on the east by Newfoundland, a huge island and Canadian Province. Entering the Gulf our ship the, 1,132 foot 150,000 ton, Queen Mary 2 passes Cape Breton, St. Pierre and Miquelon Islands. We steamed through the Cabot Strait following the Laurentian Channel to the mouth of the great river.

On our way into the Gulf we pass by the last remaining piece of the French Empire in North America. After the British defeated the French in the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in September 1759 the Saint Pierre and Miquelon Islands, sitting just off the southwest coast of Newfoundland at the entrance to the Gulf of St. Lawrence, remained and remain today a French colony.

The Gulf is also the home of Anticosti, Magdalen and Prince Edward Islands. Anticosti Island is known to many North County’s hunters; the island is sparely populated and is one and half times larger than Prince Edward Island and has abundant wildlife.

Passing by the Magdalen Islands, which are nearly in the center of the Gulf; the Magdalen’s are the home of the St. Lawrence’s other Grindstone Island. The Magdalens are part of the Province of Quebec and Grindstone is the most important island in the group. The main industry is commercial and sport fishing.

We passed by fabled Rock of Perce; this unique natural phenomenon sits in the Gulf just off the Gaspe Peninsula. The Gaspe is a favorite snowmobile ride for East Coast snowmobilers and attracts riders from Europe. The 1200 mile snowmobile trip begins along the north coast of the peninsula with its many fiords presenting remarkable scenery and exciting riding.

On entering the river the fiords are located on both sides. As the QM2 travels up river it passes by the site of one of the most tragic ship disasters in history; the sinking of the liner RMS Empress of Ireland. The story of the Empress is one of those where if just one thing had gone right it would never have happened. After a collision with a collier in May 1914, two years after the Titanic, she sank in just 14 minutes with a loss of life totaling 1,184 out of the 1,477 on board; although equipped with sufficient lifesaving equipment as required after Titanic. 

Further on is the confluence of the Saguenay River. A trip up the Saguenay provides some of the most beautiful scenery in Quebec. In the Gilded Age a cruise up the Saguenay was a rite of passage for those in the Thousand Islands. The village of Tadoussac is on the northern shore of the St. Lawrence and is well-known for beluga whale watching. Further up river on the south shore is Riviere-du-Loup which is the primary starting point for snowmobilers doing the Gaspe loop.

On the starboard side the ship passes L’lle-d’Orleans; next is the port of Quebec City. The QM2 lands quayside right next to old town and in short walk one is transported to old Quebec with all the flavor and romance of Paris. In the heyday of the great liners Quebec City offered one of the fastest ways to Europe. The Canadian Pacific Liners, the Empress of Britain and her ill-fated sister ship the Empress of Ireland, provided a regularly scheduled five day crossing, one day on the St. Lawrence and four at sea.

Cunard also provided transatlantic service from Quebec City, during the first half of the Twentieth Century, with the RMS Franconia to Liverpool.

Just north of the L’lle-d’Orleans and a short drive from the quay is Montmorency Falls. The falls is 275 feet high and is at the point where the Montmorency River joins the St. Lawrence. After two days and one night in Quebec City the QM2 starts the three day sail back to New York City.

Post Script:

The Queen Mary 2  is the first ocean liner built since the Queen Elizabeth 2 in 1969. The construction of a liner is 40% more extensive than a cruise ship. Liners are built for open ocean and point to point travel; they have heavier construction and more storage space for supplies to allow long voyages without resupplying.

For more details see “The Misunderstood Mariner” .

By Rexford M. Ennis, Grindstone Island

© Copyright Rexford M. Ennis 2012, All Rights Reserved

Rex Ennis has written several articles for TI Life.   His bio is recorded in Contributors in December, 2008. In the past two years Rex has published two important books on the Thousand Islands.  The first , published in 2010 is Toujours Jeune Always Young the biography of Charles G. Emery.  It was reviewed in June 2010 issue.  The second, Saints, Sinners and Sailors of the Gilded Age: A compendium of biographical sketches centered on the Gilded Age in the Thousand Islands  which describes the biographies of every name appearing on a 1889 map published by Frank H. Taylor called:   Map of the Thousand Islands; Hotels, Parks and Cottages.  See the book review in our July 2011 issue  and you will find the map described in the July issue in the August 2011 issue.  Luckily for TI Life readers, Rex is hard at work on a new book – so stay tuned.


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