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Due north

1966 marked an enormous advance for the Desgagnés family: the beginning of navigation in Northern Quebec.

Family tree. The names of J.A.Z., Roland and Maurice Desgagnés appear in bold, along with their date of birth and date of death. Under them are a small motor-powered schooner, and two steel coasters along with their names.

This change came about through the fourth generation of sailors and their children. As their now-retired parents focused on managing the business from Charlevoix, their young, spirited children took the helm of the family’s fleet.

Geographical map of Quebec featuring the route of l’Aigle d’Océan’s 1966 voyage. Various cities and towns are highlighted on the map of the St. Lawrence, the coast of Labrador and Ungava Bay, for example Montreal (city of departure), Joseph-de-la-Rive, Sept-Îles, Salluit and Great Whales. The map is grey and white, with the route as a dotted green line.

The first voyage of l’Aigle d’Océan in Northern Quebec

A late-July departure was scheduled aboard L’Aigle d’Océan. The journey would last one whole month. Captain Yvan Desgagnés was assisted by his cousins Marcellin and Zélada, first master and chief engineer. Six men from Saint-Joseph-de-la-Rive and Les Éboulements rounded off the crew.



A black and white portrait of a young man He is sitting backwards on a wooden chair, with the backrest against his belly. The young man is wearing black, with a white scarf knotted around his neck and a pipe in his mouth.

Captain Yvan Desgagnés

To these men, this journey might as well have been to another planet! Never before had Charlevoix sailors ventured this far from home. Many wondered if a ship this small could even survive the trip. The project caused a mix of pride and concern in the village.

L’Aigle d’Océan was hired to make regular trips for the Agence Maritime company, provisioning six villages in Northern Quebec with food and everyday products.

Failure was not an option, L’Aigle d’Océan successfully reached the villages of what was then called the “Nouveau-Quebec”. The Nunavik communities did not have docks, and so the crew had to unload the cargo with a barge. After their last stop at Great Whales, it was time to go back home.

A photograph of the ship l’Aigle d’Océan at dock, front view. The ship is white but has a black stripe on the lower portion of its hull. The name of the ship appears on the upper portion of the hull, just under the portholes. There are little clumps of ice in the water.

L’Aigle d’Océan


Safely back in Charlevoix, the crewmembers of L’Aigle d’Océan were given a hero’s welcome. Thanks to their success, the family company proved it was more than able to take provisioning contracts in the north, and overcome any ice, growlers or icebergs that would come their way.

Trips to the Arctic were very lucrative and allowed Transport Desgagnés to grow by leaps and bounds. The Desgagnés cousins took turns as at the helm of L’Aigle d’Océan, as the company continued to acquire new ships.