St. Pierre et Miquelon
The French dimension of Newfoundland's history is accentuated by the
presence, 20 kilometres off the Burin Peninsula, of the French islands of
St. Pierre and Miquelon. An important fishing base for centuries, the islands'
population, and fishermen from France, have had a long and varied relationship
with their neighbours in Newfoundland.
The islands are bare and rocky, with only a thin layer of peat to soften
the hard landscape. The coasts are generally steep, and there is only one
good harbour in the port of St. Pierre, where most of the inhabitants live -
about 5,600 people out of a total population in 1990 of about 6,392. Adding
to its importance, the town of St. Pierre is also the administrative centre
and the site of the principal airport. The harbour, which originally could
not handle vessels of more than modest tonnage, has been improved with
|St. Pierre et Miquelon.
Most inhabitants of St. Pierre et Miquelon live in the
town of St. Pierre, the administrative centre and site of
the principal airport.
Map by Tanya Saunders. ©2001 Newfoundland and Labrador
Heritage Web Site.
Once there were three main islands: St. Pierre; Miquelon; and Langlade.
During the 18th century, Miquelon and Langlade were permanently joined by an
immense sand bar and dune. Miquelon and St. Pierre are separated by a
six-kilometre strait whose fierce currents inspired fishermen to name it
"the Mouth of Hell." There are also several smaller islets, of which only
L'Ile-aux-Marins at the mouth of the harbour of St. Pierre was inhabited,
and then only from the middle of the 19th century until 1965.
The population of St. Pierre and Miquelon today rely on fishing and,
increasingly, on tourism for employment and income. In addition, the French
government makes large expenditures on the islands, determined to maintain
the last remnant of the once extensive French empire in North America.
© 2001, Olaf Uwe Janzen