L’Islet, August 22, 2017 —This Sunday, the Musée maritime du Québec (MMQ) paid tribute to Monique and Delphis Duhamel of Cap-Charles, Deschaillons sur Saint-Laurent, for having greeted more than 70,000 ships from around the world – an exceptional, 51 years contribution to maritime life in Quebec and on the river.
A one-of a-kind passion in the world
From 1964 to 2015, the Duhamels identified and graciously greeted sailors on ships navigating the narrow St. Lawrence at the height of Cap-Charles, where the couple deliberately chose to settle.
Over the years, the greeting ritual — never losing in vitality — was further enriched and communicated daily and accurately to all the ships in the following ways: broadcasting seaward of the national anthem of the sailors’ country of origin; raising of the Canadian flag and the flag of their country of origin; raising on the halyard of maritime greetings based on the international maritime signal flags known to sailors’ worldwide and, finally, a handwritten entry in the records book. The couple estimates that 90% of the ships responded to their greetings with whistle blasts. In 2000, on the basis of knowledge acquired as a result of their unusual pastime, they opened the Centre de la navigation sur le St-Laurent to reveal to visitors the secrets and detailed movement of ships on the river.
The MMQ wishes to pay tribute to these true ambassadors of the St. Lawrence at a time when the couple just recently left their legendary property. “Inspired by the need to communicate, over the years Mr. and Mrs. Duhamel reached out and moved the hearts of sailors from around the world and pilots of the St. Lawrence alike. A phenomenon unique in the world that highlights the solidarity between seafarers and showcases the hospitality and creativity of these people of the river,” stated MMQ Director Sophie Limoges.
Legacy bequeathed to the MMQ
Judging the MMQ to be the best institution to preserve the memory of their passion, the Duhamels bequeathed to the MMQ their signal mast, halyards, flags (all hand sewn by Mrs. Duhamel), records carefully kept up to date for 51 years, and a large collection of Lloyd’s ship records and other correspondence files. For Alain Franck, the Museum’s curator, “It is a legacy that illustrates Quebecers’ attachment to the maritime world which was how the development of the New World was made possible.”
Partners of the Hommage aux gens du fleuve event in 2017
The MMQ wishes to express its gratitude to the partners who made this event possible: the Corporation of Mid-St. Lawrence River Pilots, the Laurentian Pilotage Authority, the Municipality of L’Islet and the Government of Quebec. Over the past 10 years, the event has become a welcome tradition that acknowledges people who have made a significant contribution to maritime life in Quebec or to the preservation of maritime heritage.
The MMQ was founded in L’Islet in 1968 and is the custodian of Quebec’s national maritime collection. It commemorates the memory of Captain Joseph-Elzéar Bernier, born in L’Islet in 1852, a great explorer of the Arctic for the Canadian government at the onset of the 20th century. He is recognized as being responsible for claiming Canadian sovereignty over this northern territory.
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