|La Martre, PQ|
Description: Named after nearby Marten River, La Martre Lighthouse is considered by some to be the crown jewel of the Gaspé lighthouses. Though fully automated, La Martre is the only light in Quebec that operates in a non-automated manner during the day, so that tourists can see the Fresnel lens rotating in its mercury bath using the original system of weights and cables.
Jean-Baptiste Gauthier, the first keeper, raised a family of eight children, two of whom followed in their father's footsteps and joined the lighthouse service. Keeper Gauthier retired in 1902 and received the Imperial Service Order medal the following year for his lengthy service.
In 1890, the site was the scene of the sinking of the Feedjoff, a Norwegian ship, and one of the ship's anchors can be seen near the station today.
The second keeper, August Leclerc, a fifty-two-year-old entrepreneur and owner of a sawmill, watched the construction of the current tower, which was completed in 1906. Standing sixty-three feet tall, the wooden, octagonal tower is supported inside by massive beams, which are ten-inches-square and nearly forty feet long, and is painted bright red with a large vertical white stripe on its seaward side. Perched on a steep hill, the light has a focal plane of 130 feet (40 metres) and originally exhibited a signature of four white flashes every thirty seconds in this manner: half-second flash, four-and-a-half-second eclipse, half-second flash, four-and-a-half-second eclipse, half-second flash, four-and-a-half-second eclipse, half-second flash, fourteen-and-a-half-second eclipse. The illuminant first used inside the third-order Fresnel was petroleum vapour burned under an incandescent mantle.
Along with the lighthouse, a fog alarm building was built with an extension for air tanks and a diaphone. To supply the necessary water for the steam engine, a well with a diameter of ten feet was sunk and lined with concrete. A concrete cistern was dug beneath the boiler room to store the water, and a sixty-foot-tall brick chimney was put up to carry away the smoke from the engines. The fog alarm building was also painted red, and the diaphone fog signal commenced operation on August 10, 1906, sounding a five-second blast in each minute when needed. Duplicate ten-horse-power oil engines replaced the steam engine in 1919.
A Liberal MP replaced Raymond L’Italien in 1947 with Paul Roger Caron, the son of Jean-Baptiste Caron, the lightkeeper at Cap-de-la-Madeleine. Paul Caron was a young veteran of World War II and had learned telegraphy, radio, Morse code and mathematics in the service. He was well-liked in the community, and when La Martre was automated in 1972, he was transferred to Cap-des-Rosiers, where he served for another six years.
In 1957, Arthur Lafontaine and Ovide Fortin were hired to construct a new dwelling and demolish the existing one.
After the lighthouse was automated, another keeper emerged, one who got his job based on his passion for the lighthouse. Fearing the lighthouse would deteriorate, Yves Foucrault petitioned for funds and was able to hire a few students each summer to help develop a museum and assist with maintenance of the station.
His dedication was noted in 2008 by Barry MacDonald, President of the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society, while speaking in Parliament to the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans in favor of Bill S-215, an act to protect heritage lighthouses.
When you go to his lighthouse, you almost feel you should take off your shoes when you go inside, really. This is how well he takes care of this lighthouse.
Because of Foucreault’s work, the lighthouse continues to be one of the highlights of the Gaspé lighthouse trail. The keeper’s house now serves as town hall/welcome centre, and a museum in the fog alarm building has exhibits on lighthouse history and equipment.
La Martre Lighthouse was declared a Recognized Federal Heritage Building in 1988.
Keepers: Jean Gauthier (1876 - 1902), Auguste Leclerc (1902 - 1912), Joseph L’Italien (1912 - 1946), Raymond L’Italien (1946 - 1947), Paul-Roger Caron (1947-1972).
Located on the northern shore of the Gaspé Peninsula just off Route 132 at 10 Avenue du Phare, La Martre. The lighthouse is owned by the Canadian Coast Guard. Grounds open, tower open in season.
The lighthouse is owned by the Canadian Coast Guard. Grounds open, tower open in season.
Pictures on this page copyright Kraig Anderson, used by permission.