The archaeological digs in Blanc-Sablon demonstrates that since the middle of the 19th century, this beautiful corner of Quebec attracted visitors. For years and years, groups of natives choose to live in this region.  During 8000 years, the natives adapted to the different changes in nature, temperature, while continuing their traditional way of living, hunting, fishing, and picking berries.  In the digs, many treasures from this era were found, like instruments made out of silex. The west side of the Blanc-Sablon river was classified as archaeological site by the Culture and Communications minister in 1989.

Just a few examples from the archaological dig's treasures...

Other digs also proved the presence of Europeans as early as the XVI and XVII centuries.  The Basque and Portuguese came to fish whales in Blanc-Sablon.  

Jacques Cartier was sent by François Ier to search for gold in the New World & find a passage to Asia.   Cartier left Sait-Malo on April 20 with 2 ships and 61 men.  They arrived in Blanc-Sablon on May 27, 1534.  He also planted a cross by the village of Lourdes de Blanc-Sablon.  Later, in 1704, Courtemanche built a fort in Brador, fort Pontchartrain. So, this area was a centre of maritime and military activities.

For years, the villages were inhabited by fishermen and their families.  

Brador, around 1760, was monopolized by the Labrador company, which was lucrative for decades.  They made profits fishing cod and hunting seal.  60 years later, after bankrupting, the company sold the fishing rights to Captain Randall Jones (born in England).  People from Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Jersey and the United States came to fish in Brador.  Permanent setlers, mainly Newfoundlanders, like the Etheridge, Hart, Hobbs and Letto families, are dissidents from today's Brador population.  Before 1968, families lived on the Bassin island during summer, and for the cold winters, back on the continent by the mountains, to shelter from the wind.  They then settled all year long on the Brador plain.    

People also came to Lourdes de Blanc-Sablon for the resources of the sea.  Fishermen from the Channel Islands, especially Jersey, fsand Newfoundland came to this village to fish every summer.  Possibly as early as 1824, a Newfoudlander, Charles Dicker, settled in Lourdes de Blanc-Sablon year-round.  At the same time, French-speaking families from Quebec city, Berthier, Montmagny, Gaspe, etc. arrived hoping for a better life by catching seals and salmon.  Early 1860's, a lot of families went back home dissapointed, but some also stayed: Beaudoin, Dumas, Joncas, Lavallee.  Their descendants still live in the area.  This explains the fact that Lourdes de Blanc Sablon is the only bilingual village.  The little harbour, a natural sea port, with it's little houses and it's boats is a good reminder of the traditional activity of fishing.

Fishermen also came to Blanc Sablon.  It was historically a major fishing port.  Around 1780, De Quetteville, a fishing company, made Blanc-Sablon their headquarters in the region for nearly a century.  Their activities concentrated around cod fishing, and they went back home to Jersey each fall.  In 1817, people came to live permanently from Quebec city, New Brunswick's Acadie and Jersey Island.  So, at that time, French was mostly used in Blanc-Sablon, but later came a Newfoundland fishing company, and from 1890 onwards, the village was anglicized.  School was taught in English, fishermen married French women, etc.

From Blanc-Sablon, you can see Île au Bois (or Wood Island). It is located at 3 kilometres from the village. History tells of French explorer Jacques Cartier who refers to this island as isle de Bouays in his chronicle of his first voyage to North America in 1534. The French had installations on this island as early as the 18th century. One can still find the circular stone ruins of "rooms" used for piling cod overnight.  

Greenly Island, just off the coast of Lourdes de Blanc-Sablon, was the home of a family.  They operated the lighthouse.  They  came by boat to the village for supplies.  Since then, the lighthouse has been replaced by an electric one, but the houses are still there.   On the same island, in 1928, the Bremen crash landed instead of it's intended safe and welcomed arrival in New York city. Greenly island became the landing point of the first transatlantic airplane flight going from east to west.  Newsmen rushed over from all over America to cover the event.

The damaged plane was eventually shipped back to Germany where it was restaured.  It now is exposed in a Michigan museum.  A monument on the island commemorates this historical event.  There is also a model of the aircraft at the Blanc-Sablon airport.  

The Bremen monument and the houses on Greenly Island


In 1534, Jacques Cartier called it Lieu des Islettes, on account of the flat, rocky islands.  In the XVIIIe century, Brador was known has Fort-Pontchartrain and Baie-Phélipeaux.  The name Brador is the shortened form of Labrador.  The 'la' was taken away because of the confusion it created in French, la being an article.  Samuel de Champlain, for exzmple, sometimes wrote  «la Brador» and other times «Labrador». François Martel de Brouague, ruling for the king on the region from 1714 à 1760, frequently signed his memories from this region like this: «A la Baye de Phélipeaux, coste de la Brador».

Lourdes de Blanc-Sablon
Called Longue-Pointe for years, because of it's location: a long rocky point going into the water.  This village was rechristened in 1907 to the name Lourdes-de-Blanc-Sablon in hohor of Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes in France.  The name Long Point is still used unofficially by the residents.

In his 1534 trip, Jacques Cartier talks about Blanc-Sablon.  In 1579, the Basque capitaine Martin de Hoyarsabal also signals Beaulsablon : «Item de l'eauë forte [Forteau, east from Blanc-Sablon] iusques à Beaulsablon y a 3 lieuës [...]».  The sandy nature of the area could also be an important element, sable means sand.  It's possible that fishermen from 'Bretagne' called it Baie (de) Sablon, existing in their land, because it ressembled it.   Also, there is in Saint-Malo, a place called anse Blanc-Sablons, located near Saint-Servan.  At the XIXe century, the plural form of Blancs-Sablons is frequently used to identify this region, which was the eastern limit of Lower-Canada.

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© 2005 Christelle Fortin-Vaillancourt
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