The project looks at the history (1500s – 1900s) of temporary and semi-permanent settlements on Sable Island, ranging from shipwrecked sailor encampments, fishing camps, salvage/wrecking operations and lifesaving stations. Archaeological evidence of these diverse uses is part of the island’s, the country’s and international maritime history’s cultural heritage. In August 2010 a four day initial site survey of pedestrian transects and surface reconnaissance was targeted at locations derived from historic maps, aerial photography, written accounts, art and the likely needs of shipwreck survivors/inhabitants with the goal of assessing the feasibility of future investigations of greater depth. Although weather conditions and time allowed for visiting a limited number of areas, several sites were identified, including one with early 18th-century or late 17th-century artifacts predating the Humane Establishment by a century.
The project’s findings suggest that a more complete understanding of Sable’s archaeological resources and early occupation can be achieved through future investigations. This will likely require repeated surface surveys after erosion and dune blowout. Considerable “local knowledge” of historic sites has been lost in the decades since the close of the Humane Establishment. A higher level of awareness among island visitors regarding the significance of cultural resources and the systematic reporting of relics would add to the knowledge base and protect disappearing and deteriorating cultural resources. The investigators are planning a second survey to examine areas of the island not covered in the first study and to observe the effects of dune erosion over time at previous sites.