Between mid-June and mid-September each year, CTMA offers weekly cruises between Montréal, Québec City, the Gaspé Peninsula and Les Îles de la Madeleine. The archipelago of Îles de la Madeleine is far out into the Gulf of St Lawrence: 215 km from Québec’s Gaspé, 105 km from Prince Edward Island and 95 km from northern Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island. Now you know! Map Courtesy of Express Design
Some 320 million years ago, before continental drift began to separate the land masses, Les Îles de la Madeleine were located close to the earth’s equator in a basin which was actually below sea level and where the average ambient temperature was 38°C (100°F). Seawater flowed often into this basin and its evaporation caused layers of salt to accumulate on its floor. Over time, this layer of accumulated salt grew to a depth of 5 kilometers. Meanwhile, the Îles de la Madeleine started their very long migration towards the north, eventually ending up in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. Geological activity subsequently covered the salt with another 4 kilometers of rock and lava.
Between 2 and 5 million years ago, the pressure of the rocky layer overlaying the salt raised its temperature to nearly 300°C (572°F). The salt, now more fluid and malleable than the rocky layer directly above, rises towards the surface. Pressure from rising salt lifts the overlaying rock, creating the famous salt domes supporting Îles de la Madeleine. Visible evidence of this upshift is the large active salt mine on one of the north islands.
The rocks of the main islands are composed primarily of volcanic rock, sedimentary rock and sandstone. The rocky cores are linked by sandy spits whose surface is always affected by the winds which created the dunes, some of which, called “buttereaux” reach up to 15 meters in height.
Lying in a south-west/north-easterly direction, Îles de la Madeleine consists of a dozen islands that form a 65-kilometer-long fishhook-shaped archipelago of 202 square kilometers. The six main inhabited islands are interconnected by long, thin sand dunes joined by paved roads and bridges. Islanders live in the Atlantic Time Zone, one hour ahead of mainland Québec. Courtesy of Tourisme Iles de la Madeleine
Return to our richly-illustrated feature article about cruising from Montréal to Les Îles de la Madeleine.