Photo 20 (Hard)

Petit-de-Grat Harbour and Petit-de-Grat Island
Photo 20 of 30: Petit-de-Grat Harbour and Petit-de-Grat Island
Taken 2008 June 9 from the Cape Auguet Sentier Écologique/Eco-Trail
along the western coast of Petit-de-Grat Harbour
GPS 45°29.7??'N 60°58.6??'W

This view of Petit-de-Grat Island across Petit-de-Grat Harbour, taken from the Eco-Trail on the eastern coast of Cape Auguet, shows some of the buildings in Petit-de-Grat, the oldest fishing village in the area. Petit-de-Grat is the site of the Acadian culture centre, La Picasse and, each August, hosts Le Festival acadien de Petit-de-Grat, an annual celebration of the area’s Acadian heritage (12-16 August in 2009).

Basque, Portuguese, French, and English fishermen came to this area not long after Columbus discovered North America. They set up rough summer fishing camps in which to dry the fish they caught for shipment back to Europe; over time, those camps gradually became more elaborate and resulted first in seasonal, and later in permanent, settlements. According to this web page (courtesy of the Wayback Machine archive, as the original has disappeared), “[t]he name Petit-de-Grat derived from the fishing term ‘degrat’ which indicated a temporary fishing base set up near a more permanent one, and ‘petit’ here meant the shallop fishery as opposed to the grand or schooner fishery.” Around the time the fortress was built at Louisbourg, Petit-de-Grat, with its protected harbour, became permanently settled. Two French merchants, D’Aroupet and Hiriat, made the harbour of Petit-de-Grat into a major fishing and smuggling center; it quickly grew to become the largest community on Isle Madame during the heyday of French Louisbourg, dwarfing Arichat at the time. Indeed, contemporary officials thought that more goods moved through Petit-de-Grat than through Louisbourg.

Cape Auguet is the southeastern tip of Isle Madame, which protrudes quite a ways into Chedabucto Bay. The Cape Auguet Sentier Écologique/Eco-Trail, from which this photo was taken, is Richmond County’s premier hiking trail: a 4.5 km (2.8 mi) trail leads from the trail head outside Boudreauville along the coast and salt marshes of Petit-de-Grat Harbour to the trail’s end in the middle of Mackerel Cove and alternative side and loop trails provide additional views. The relatively high and distinctive form of Petit-de-Grat Island, which is in considerable part responsible for the shelter from Atlantic storms provided by Petit-de-Grat Harbour, remains in one’s mind long after the hike is done as an icon of this beautiful area.

[2012] As previously mentioned, le Sentier Écologique/Eco-Trail at Cape Auguet is apparently in a severe state of disrepair at this point: Michael Haynes, noted author of Nova Scotia and Cape Breton hiking books, reported here that, as of 2011 July 1, “[s]ome [trails], such as the Cape Auguet Eco-Trail, were in deadful shape, and can only be trekked by the very experienced - and even then it will be difficult.” If the situation has not since been ameliorated, the location from which this photo was taken, near the salt marsh, is now effectively unreachable except by the very determined.