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Dangers of Island's coast explored in new exhibit

October 18, 2011

The seas off Prince Edward Island can be deadly. Over the last two centuries reefs, sandbars, currents and winds have claimed more than 500 vessels. Every shipwreck has a story. Only a few have become famous.

Minding The Light: The Gentle Island's Dangerous Coastline is a new exhibition at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery shedding some light on the history of these seas and shipwrecks.

"The sea can be dangerous, the ice unstable. Lighthouses, signal masts, and even saplings stuck in a frozen harbour are some of the ways we've tried to make them safer. Minding the Light explores how we've coped with the sometimes treacherous waters that surround the gentle Island," says Boyde Beck, the exhibition's curator.

The exhibit examines water travel as part of Prince Edward Island's heritage. Accurate maps and charts were vital to the Island's development. Iceboats once made it unique in the eyes of the outside world. Icebreakers were part of the travel routine for almost a century. Lighthouses have become an iconic part of the landscape.

The East Point light's role in causing the shipwreck of the HMS Phoenix in 1882 is traced in the exhibition. The grounding in 1883 of the Marco Polo on a beach near Cavendish is also included.

Minding The Light: The Gentle Island's Dangerous Coastline is in the Gallery until March 1. The exhibition was organized by the PEI Museum and Heritage Foundation with many thanks to Holland College and the University of Prince Edward Island.

Gallery director, Kevin Rice, says, "It's fascinating to see this collection of historical maps and charts alongside Kim Morgan's contemporary exhibition, Range Light, Borden-Carleton, a sculpture that explores the idea of community change."

The opening reception for the gallery's fall exhibitions is on October 22 and the public is invited to attend.

Image: 1751 chabert carte reduites. Collection of PEI Museum.