North Cape visitors: they leave their mark

Eric McCarthy
Published on August 25, 2014

NORTH CAPE -- Stepping onto the rocky beach at North Cape after completing a daytrip from East Point, Jen Carroll and Jesse Rogerson suddenly had an urge to build something. 

“Leave your mark,” Carroll offered, was the reason for their little project.

Yet it was not something the friends from Toronto thought up on their own. Many other visitors had already found their way to North Cape and beaten them to the punch.

North Cape, Prince Edward Island is perhaps the most natural of Prince Edward Island’s major tourist attractions – rugged coastline, water and waves and its famous natural rock reef, where the waters of the Northumberland Strait and the Gulf of St. Lawrence meet.

Now, the province’s northwestwardly point has a new attraction, as natural in its origin as all the others – inuksuit. Readers might be more familiar with inuksuk. That’s the singular form of the word, but there’s nothing singular about those structures at North Cape. Hundreds of them line the shoreline, mostly above the normal high tide mark at the cape; some up on the cape itself.

“You’ve got to add to it,” Rogerson exclaimed, as their little manlike structure started to take shape.

From the Inuit culture, an inuksuk is a manlike structure made from unfinished rocks. In the north, inuksuit – certainly larger ones and greater distances apart – were used by the Inuit for communication and survival.

In the Inuit language, ‘inuksuk’ means, “in the likeness of a human.”

There are a couple of traditional meanings for the structures: “someone was here” or, “you’re on the right track.’

There are so many inuksuit at North Cape that they could never be used to point anyone in a particular direction, but that doesn’t matter anyway, because, unless you have a boat North Cape is as far northwest as one can travel and still be on Prince Edward Island.

But the structures certainly point out that visitors have been there.

Remarkably, people carefully weave through the inuksuit without bumping into the creations. More often than not, they stay near the water’s edge where no such creations are standing.

Pauline Johnson, assistant manager at the North Cape Wind Energy Interpretive Center, said there have been inuksuit showing up at the cape for a few years, but really started multiplying last year. This year, she said, staff members have been advising visitors to feel free to build their own while on a stroll along the rugged coastline. Johnson said builders usually photograph their creations and post them online.

Indeed, Rogerson and Carroll put their cameras to use after completing their work. It was a simple creation but it was theirs, and, unlike many further from the water, it was destined to remain there only until the next high tide.

Some of the creations are garnished with seashells, driftwood and other materials gathered from along the shore. Builders rarely leave their names or initials on their works, content, it would seem, to have their North Cape adventure preserved on their cameras’ memory cards.