Isle Aux Morts has a rich maritime heritage of fishing and sailing with many tales of shipwrecks and loss of lives in the treacherous waters offshore. For this reason the French named it “Deadman’s Island”, or as it is known locally “Island of the Dead”.
It is a town noted for its heroism and discovery. One of the first families who settled in the area in the early 1800s was the George Harvey family, well known for their heroic rescues.
In 1828, the Harvey family, with the aid of their Newfoundland dog, “Hairyman”, rescued 163 people from the sinking brig “Despatch”, shipwrecked on the rocks off Isle Aux Morts. They made another daring rescue in 1838, saving 25 crew members from the Glasgow ship, the “Rankin”.
The present day Coast Guard Ship “Ann Harvey”, is named in memory of the daughter of George Harvey who, while she was only 17 years old, assisted in these heroic deeds. Ann has also been recognized as the “Grace Darling of Newfoundland”, an honor bestowed upon a heroine in each colony of the British Empire, after the heroic exploits of the daughter of a lighthouse keeper in England who at 22 years old rescued 9 people from the sinking steamship, Forfarshire, ten years after Ann had performed her first heroic deed.
On November 26, 1981, Wayne Mushrow discovered a very rare and working Portuguese mariner’s astrolabe on a shipwreck near Isle aux Morts. The year “1628” and “Y. Dyas” are stamped on the astrolabe, indicating that it was likely made by known astrolabe maker Joas Dyas. Portuguese mariner’s astrolabes are unique because they are graduated for zenith distance only.