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Cape Breton Museums Network
The Louisbourg Marine Museum

One of the most recent museums on Cape Breton Island,
with the artifacts most ancient...

Louisbourg Marine Museum

A historic place, a major collection...
dedicated to fisheries, marine life and marine history
along our Atlantic coast.
Privately owned; opened in July 2001.

Louisbourg Marine Museum picture.jpg

Areas of interest:

Marine history, marine life, fisheries, trades and techiques, ethnology, social history

Surface area:

About 1,300 sq. ft. (exhibits)

Description, purpose:

"The ocean embraces a rich world which for the most part remains hidden from our eyes by the restless surface of its water.

That which dwells on the bottom - the creatures swimming or crawling amongst the rocks - is difficult to observe. It is for many a still unknown world, a world full of secrets iinto which our Marine Museum will give you a glimpse.

Through our exhibits and salt water aquarium, you will be introduced to the many creatures and objects from our local marine environment.

As most items in use by our fishermen untll recent times have now disappeared from our shores, our collection of fishing equipment is of particular significance. A visit to our Marine Museum will show you how dory fishermen of yester-years risked everything on the Grand Banks.

One of our displays features the sunken treasure recovered from the 1725 pay ship Le Chameau, the most dramatic wreck on our coast. We also have ship models and historic artifacts of particular interest to divers.

A visit to Louisbourg would not be complete witout experiencing the rich world lying beneath our waters."

(Text from the Museum brochure)

Highlights of the Museum:

artefacts 1.jpg

Above, an arrangement of artifacts found in small local harbours: Baleine, Louisbourg, Main-a-Dieu, etc. These range from the 17th century up to the 1950s. The pipes are thought to be earlier than the ones found at the Fortress of Louisbourg.

Most of the underwater artifacts shown in the Museum were found by Alex Storm.

The area covered extends from Main-a-Dieu Bay, Scatarie Island, Lorraine, towards Louisbourg and Gabarus Bay.

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Above:
A collection of artifacts from various ships which disappeared into the North Atlantic waters between Scatarie Island and Louisbourg, among which an Irish immigrant ship, discovered near Lorraine.

Other interesting facts:

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Against a backdrop created by Charles Dawd, one can see (picture, left) an impressive 600-pound Leather-Back Turtle, caught into a fisherman's net in the 1960s, and preserved by Alex Storm.

Also, one of the most significant and rarest pieces in the Museum is a cannon discovered in Sydney Harbour in the 1960s. It actually is the oldest artifact ever found in Sydney Harbour, and the only cannon retrieved from the same location.

Such a piece of artillery would have been used as a deterrent against pirates, in those times fish was salted in barrels along the shore. The cannon would have been placed at the end of a wharf in shallow waters; it might have accidentally fallen over and sunken into the mud.

Special activities or events:

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Workshops / Educational Programs:

School visits, and school tours.

Contact information:

Ernie Parsons, owner and director

The Louisbourg Marine Museum

7548 Main Street
Louisbourg, Nova Scotia B1C 1J4

Tel. (902) 733-2252
Fax: (902) 733-2053

The Louisbourg Marine Museum's
Direction and Staff:

Ernie Parsons

Curator / Scientific Advisor:

Alex Storm

For sale at the Museum:

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Open: from June to end of September
Mon. - Fri., 10 am - 8 pm
(Off hours / season: by appointment)

Admission: adults, $2,50; children under 12, $1.50; family, $7.00; group rates available.

Lobster Kettle restaurant.jpg

W.C., giftshops, restaurants nearby.

Museum tickets redeemable for a free beverage at the Lobster Kettle Restaurant.

The collections:

Displays featuring recovered artifacts from 18th-century sunken ships (e.g., Le Chameau and The Feversham). Model ships. Many artifacts (c. 1850-1950) pertaining to the local history of the North Atlantic fisheries on the Grand Banks, including a dory, with complete fishing gear. Display on swordfishing. Lenses from the Louisbourg Lighthouse. Aquarium (a 300-gallon tank) with various saltwater marine species. Also, many fish specimens, preserved in acrylic: dogfish, codfish, haddock, monkfish, skate, turbot, and others; and a giant leather-back turtle.

The present collection essentially stems from that of Alex Storm, the famous diver and adventurer who discovered Le Chameau and other sunken treasures. Many of these artifacts were originally shown at his Atlantic Statiquarium Marine Museum (1960s - late 1980s) in Louisbourg.

Below:
This is a reproduction by Alex Storm of the layout at the bottom of the sea when Le Chameau was discovered.
Clay pots and dishes, shaving bowl, coins, lead balls (grape shot), 2 and 3-pound cannon balls.

artefacts 3.jpg

Le Chameau: a 44-gun, 600-ton, French man-of-war, the pride of the French navy, "one of the fastest and best equipped line-of-battle ships in the royal navy of France".
On August 27th, 1725, in a storm off Cape Breton, while trying to make the mouth of Louisbourg harbour, Le Chameau was swept in upon the rocky shore. Every soul aboard was lost. Much of the wreck was washed ashore and was picked up by those sent from Louisbourg. Cast up from the sea were 180 bodies. A burial, en masse, was carried out with the missionary priest at Baleine officiating.
There was no sign of the after part of the ship having come ashore, so it was hoped that some salvage might be made of her guns and treasure, particularly as the rock on which she broke up was covered at low tide by only a few feet of water. The next season some soldiers who were skilled divers were sent from Quebec and employed at the wreck. The treasure, however, was not located at the time.

It is interesting to note that Le Chameau went down in a storm in 1725, that the first person to attempt salvage in 1726 was named Tempete, or "Storm", and that she was "raised" by Alex Storm in 1965, more than two centuries later.

Over 2000 coins were recovered from Le Chameau. This French pay vessel sank before it could pay its workers in the New World.

(Excerpts from various Web sites)

READING:
Alex Storm, "Seaweed and Gold: The Discovery of the Ill-Fated Chameau, 1961-1971", in: The Island, New Perspectives on Cape Breton History 1713-1990. Kenneth Donovan, Editor. UCCB Press, 1990.

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In 1711, the English ship H.M.S. Feversham requisitioned 569 12s5d in money from the British Treasury Office in New York City, before setting sail for Quebec City. She was to escort vessels with food supplies for the Royal Navy warships and to assist the British fleet for an attack on Quebec.
On its way north, the ship sank off Cape Breton.
In 1984 she was found and salvaged.
It is believed the coins on board were likely the unspent balance after purchasing provisions. The entire corpus of material, mainly Spanish American silver cobs and Massachusetts Bay Colony shillings, not a large salvage by comparison with the cargoes of Spanish treasure ships, was auctioned by Christie's in New York, 1989.

Some Web sites about Le Chameau and
The Feversham:

dory.jpg

A 'Grand Bank dory', built in Louisbourg, completely outfitted for 2 men. The dory would be dropped off the side of a schooner. Fishing period: from the 1850s to the 1950s.
Items presented: high flyer, trawl tub, girdie, side hawler, basket-weave water cask, hand-line and jig, gaffs, kerosene signal lantern, bailer, south'wester. Dory horn (not visible).

More interesting Web sites:

Some Web sites about Louisbourg:

The Louisbourg Marine Museum is on the Fleur-de-lis Trail.
How to get there (from Sydney and Glace Bay):

map.jpg

fishing boat.jpg

CBMN January 2002