A history mystery: island identified

HALIFAX – Last week we told you about the Nova Scotia Archives‘ crowd-sourcing project on Flickr. Since then, the project has received 50,000 views and a number of photographs have been identified.

This weekend, one of the most mysterious photos of the bunch now has a name and a location.

This eerie photo of seemingly abandoned buildings on a tiny island had everyone guessing:

Some thought it was in Italy. Others thought it was off of the South Shore near Yarmouth.

Thanks to an especially resourceful Flickr user, we now know that this is Silver Islet in Sleeping Giant Provincial Park. It’s a tiny piece of land in Lake Superior near Thunder Bay, Ontario. It is called Silver Islet because of the highly profitable silver mine that operated there.

The view that confirmed the island’s identity

A vein of pure silver was discovered on the island in 1868. At the time, the island was 50 meters in size and only 2.5 metres above the waters of the lake. In 1870, the site was developed and wooden breakwaters around the island were built to hold back waves. The islet was then expanded to over 10 times its original size and a small mining town was built up on the shore nearby. Over the 16 years that the mine was in operation, $3.25 million worth of silver was extracted.

After most of the ore from the original site had been removed, a second vein was discovered in 1878. By 1883, most of the silver had been extracted. A short time later, a shipment of coal did not arrive before the end of the shipping season. This caused the pumps holding back the waters of the lake to stop, and in early 1884 the islet’s mine shafts were flooded.

A history mystery solved on Flickr! In the coming weeks, we hope that more locations can be identified and people can be named.

Photos from Nova Scotia Archives

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