Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Saint Pierre et Miquelon

Postcrossing is all about the luck of the draw.  The people you get cards from, the quality of the cards, the way in which they fit your interests, and, in no small measure, where they come from.

As soon as I saw the postcrossing ID number on this one I knew I had a winner!  It was PM-355.  Only the 355th postcard sent from that country.  But where was PM.  I couldn’t guess.  So I had to look at the stamp and the front of the card. 

It was from Saint Pierre et Miquelon.  Located in the heart of the Grand Banks in the North Atlantic, 25 km southwest of Newfoundland, the archipelago of Saint Pierre and Miquelon is composed of eight islands, totalling 242 km2, of which only two are inhabited - Saint Pierre Island and Miquelon-Langlade, the largest island, which is in fact composed of two islands, Miquelon being connected to Langlade by the Dune de Langlade, a 10 km-long sandy isthmus.   A storm had severed them in the 18th century, separating the two islands for several decades, before currents reconstructed the isthmus.   The waters between Langlade and Saint-Pierre were called "the Mouth of Hell" (French: Gueule d'Enfer) until about 1900, as more than 600 shipwrecks have been recorded in that point since 1800.  Langlade Island is almost deserted (only one inhabitant in the 1999 census). The islands are bare and rocky, with steep coasts, and only a thin layer of peat to soften the hard landscape.

Saint Pierre and Miquelon is a self-governing territorial overseas collectivity of France, situated in the northwestern Atlantic Ocean near Canada.  It is the only remnant of the former colonial empire of New France that remains under French control. The islands of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon were discovered by Europeans on 21 October 1520, by the Portuguese João Álvares Fagundes, who bestowed on them their original name of "Islands of the 11,000 Virgins", as the day marked the feast day of St. Ursula and her virgin companions. They were made a French possession in 1536 by Jacques Cartier on behalf of the King of France.

Though already frequented by Micmac Indians and Basque and Breton fishermen, the islands were not permanently settled until the end of the 17th century: four permanent inhabitants were counted in 1670, and 22 in 1691.  The islands were ceded to Great Britain in 1713 and back to France in 1814.  The estimated population now is 5,888, most of whom live in the city of St Pierre. The Village of Miquelon has a population of less than a thousand.

 postcard no 260

The islands are situated at the entrance of Fortune Bay, which extends into the southern coast of Newfoundland, near the Grand Banks.  They are 3,819 kilometres (2,373 mi) from Brest, the nearest point in Metropolitan France but just 20 kilometres (12 miles) off the Burin Peninsula of Newfoundland.

Smuggling had always been an important economic activity in the islands, but it became especially prominent in the 1920s with the institution of prohibition in the United States.[18] In 1931, the archipelago was reported to have imported 1,815,271 US gallons (6,871,550 litres) of whisky from Canada in 12 months, most of it to be smuggled into the United States.  The end of prohibition in 1933 plunged the islands into economic depression.

Every year in the summer there is a Basque Festival, with demonstrations of harrijasotzaile (stone heaving), aizkolari (lumberjack skills), and pelota. The local cuisine is mostly based on seafood such as lobster, snow crab, cod, mussels and many cod-based dishes. Ice hockey is very popular in Saint-Pierre and Miquelon. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Welcome. I love it when visitors comment - even if it's only to say "Hi, I've been here!"