Throughout Anticosti’s stormy and sometimes mysterious history, many have dared to tame the « jewel » of the St. Lawrence. This savagely beautiful lost continent, risen from the primordial Champlain Sea 6 million years ago, has a history that reads like a sea farers novel. With its shipwrecks, starvation, cannibalism, piracy, lunacy, greed, colonization debacles, and finally bankruptcy and ruin, Anticosti Island is where danger and beauty exquisitely entwine.
From the sea, the view of Anticosti’s shore line portrays jagged towering limestone cliffs formed like the teeth of a giant saw. An emerald green canopy of lush boreal forests borders the shorelines contrasting sharply with the blue coastal waters. The island’s pale limestone cliffs, caves and canyons got their start more than 400 million years ago with the layered deposits of sediments, ancient sea creatures and coral. Glaciers compressed and submerged the island during the last ice age. As the ice receded and the island emerged, its limestone features began forming from the seawater run off.
Jacques Cartier, the explorer and adventurer, cursed Anticosti Island as the land that God gave to Cain. He often referred to the island as Jinx Island and also as the strangest island in the world, for its dangerous coast of treacherous reefs and rocks chilled by the Labrador Current.
Quebec City born explorer, Louis Jolliet, the discoverer of Hudson’s Bay and the great Mississippi River was Anticosti Island’s first owner. In 1680, King Louis XIV granted him the island as a reward for his discoveries. His colonization attempts of Anticosti were thwarted by a rag-tag armada of British sailors and marines during the on-going fights for New France.
In 1895, a chocolate manufacturer from France named Henri Menier bought Anticosti Island. Menier fell in love with the island and, with a vision towards the island`s future sustainability, proceeded with the introduction of most of the animal species now living on the island. He released White-tailed deer, bison, elk, caribou, moose, fox, frogs, grouse and hare. From the original 220 White-tailed deer that were released, the population now numbers well over 120,000 head. Many of the other game species did not fare as well, but the moose remain in smaller numbers along with the hare, fox, frogs and grouse. Port Menier, the only town on the island, was named after him. The town has a resident population of 160 people.
In 1974, the Quebec Government purchased the island back from lumber company interests and proceeded to turn Anticosti Island into a Provincial Wildlife Reserve.
Through the development and mergers of other existing private lease owners, Safari Anticosti now manages over 25% or 800 square miles of the island.
Just prior to the Second World War, the German Nazi Government tried to buy Anticosti Island with the pretext to invest and develop its lumber industry. Historical documents have also shown that the Germans had a hidden agenda. The natural and deep water coves of Anticosti Island were well suited for hiding U-Boats that were to be used against the merchant shipping in the Atlantic.