Citizen scientist: Zoe Lucas, 57, has spent 40 years living on Sable Island, a smile-shaped sandbar measuring around 26 miles long
A woman living on a remote island off the coast of Canada devoid of human life could certainly give Robinson Crusoe a run for his money.
Zoe Lucas, 57, has spent 40 years living on Sable Island, a large smile-shaped sandbar measuring around 26 miles long.
The only other residents on the patch of land are around 400 horses, 300,000 grey seals and 350 species of bird.
Talking to MailOnline Travel, Lucas, who is revered for her work as a naturalist, revealed that she has adapted to island life and never gets lonely.
She says her essential survival tools include a jotter pad, so she can take notes, and binoculars to observe the wildlife on the sandy shores.
Sometimes there are some rather odd things she spots through her lenses, however, with a fake leg being one of the more bizarre things that have surfaced on shore.
The citizen scientist from Halifax first visited Sable Island as a 21-year-old in 1971 while studying goldsmithing.
‘I squawked and squawked, I wanted to come so bad. I originally came out here for the horses,’ Lucas explains.
Sable Island, which is only accessible by boat or charter plane, is home to hundreds of wild horses, which are completely unmanaged.
It’s believed the animals arrived on the island in the early 18th century to help with agricultural work when a settlement was attempted and later they were recruited to help man a lifesaving station.
Sable Island – which is shrouded in fog for around 125 days of the year – is a notorious shipping hazard.
Sable Island is a narrow, crescent-shaped sandbar measuring 26 miles long and 0.93 miles across at its widest point. It is considered to be part of the district of Halifax, although the urban area is located some 190 miles away on the Nova Scotian mainland
Wild landscape: The only other residents on the patch of land are around 400 horses, 300,000 grey seals and 350 species of bird
It is said to be home to more than 300 shipwrecks, earning it the nickname ‘graveyard of the Atlantic’. One of the more recent accidents occurred in 1981.
But Lucas says the hostile environment didn’t deter her and she swiftly returned to Sable Island and made it her home.
She set up camp on one end of the island, where former buildings from the abandoned lifesaving station once stood. Supplies are flown in on a weekly basis to enable her survival.
Today Lucas lives in a wooden-clad house nestled in a collection of sand dunes. The simple abode was constructed when National Parks Canada stepped in.
Sable Island became a National Park Reserve on June 20, 2013, thanks to negotiations by Canada’s former Environment Minister, Jim Prentice, who sadly died in a plane crash.
Throughout the year a team of staff rotate shifts on the island, offering Lucas a little bit of company.
Today Lucas lives in a wooden-clad house nestled in a collection of sand dunes. The simple abode was constructed when National Parks Canada stepped in
There is a vast grey seal population on Sable Island and the waters are teeming with them
Talking with parks staff, it is clear that Lucas is highly respected.
Greg Stroud, a visitor experience manager, told MailOnline Travel: ‘Zoe’s an amazing woman and has dedicated her life to Sable Island. She goes back to her base in Halifax occasionally but this is her real home.
‘She’s worked closely with the National Parks so we can collaborate on projects.’
Stroud highlighted that island life isn’t too physically taxing, as Sable stays relatively mild all year around with an average annual temperature range of 18.6 degrees Celsius.
He continued: ‘Zoe is a very private person but it’s not surprising when you spend so much time out here alone.’
During a visit to Sable Island with the expedition company Adventure Canada, Lucas talked about some of the science she carries out. Much of her work has been funded by donors and by the non-profit organisation, Friends of Sable Island Society.
Over the years Lucas has collected the skulls of horses, so that scientists can better understand how they’ve managed to adapt to the stark landscape. She also collects rubbish to help track the ocean’s pollution levels
Over the years Lucas has collected the skulls of horses, so that scientists can better understand how they’ve managed to adapt to the stark landscape
Over the years Lucas has collected the skulls of horses, so that scientists can better understand how they’ve managed to adapt to the stark landscape.
She also helps man a weather station and does a daily rubbish collection to help track the ocean’s pollution levels.
The day we visited, she hauled out a giant bag of plastic ribbons. She revealed that popped balloon carcasses commonly wash up.
Other quirky pieces of debris that have surfaced include a garbage bag of drugs, a refrigerator and a crateful of fresh peppers from a shipping container.
Though Sable Island has a slightly spooky guise, with tales of shipwrecks and ghost stories making the rounds, for Lucas this solitary spit of sand is pure paradise, minus the palm trees.
‘She’ll stay on Sable as long as she can,’ Stroud mused.
WHERE IS SABLE ISLAND?
Sable Island is a narrow, crescent-shaped sandbar measuring 26 miles long and 0.93 miles across at its widest point.
It is considered to be part of the district of Halifax, although the urban area is located some 190 miles away on the Nova Scotian mainland.
On June 20, 2013, the sandy outpost became a National Park Reserve.
It is home to an abundance of flora and fauna including hundreds of wild horses and more than 300,000 grey seals.
The island is also home to many birds, including small numbers of the threatened Roseate tern, and is the only breeding ground of the rare Ipswich sparrow.
Sable Island’s climate is strongly influenced by the sea.
As such, winter temperatures average near freezing while during the summer months, daily maximum temperatures average around 20 degrees Celsius.
There are frequent heavy fogs in the area due to the contrasting effects of the cold Labrador Current and the warm Gulf Stream: on average there are 127 days out of the year that have at least one hour of fog. This makes Sable Island the foggiest place in the Maritimes.
Because of this, there have been lots of shipping accidents around the island’s shores, which are thought to harbour more than 250 shipwrecks. One of the last ships to wreck on the island was the Euro Princess, which ran aground in 1981.
It is possible to charter a plane to Sable Island and Adventure Canada runs an eight-day expedition cruise to the National Park Reserve with prices starting from £1,985 per person.
The trip starts and ends in St. John’s, Newfoundland & Labrador with recommended accommodation at the Murray Premises Hotel.
Direct flights run from London Gatwick to St. John’s with WestJet from £500.