The Queen of Sable Island

For more than 40 years, Zoe Lucas has lived alone on Sable Island, a desolate sandbar off the coast of Nova Scotia, 26 miles long and less than a mile wide.

— Photos by Paul Illsley


The only other inhabitants among the sand dunes and wildflowers are 400 wild horses, 300,000 grey seals and 350 species of bird.


The island, which is 190 miles east of Nova Scotia, can only be reached by boat or chartered plane from Newfoundland.


Lucas, 67, who goes about her day with binoculars to study the wildlife and a pad to make notes, says she never gets lonely. Originally from Halifax, Lucas first visited Sable Island as a 21-year-old in 1971.


When she arrived to make it her permanent home, she set up camp in one of the abandoned buildings that were part of a government lifesaving station.


Lucas now lives in a wooden house amid the sand dunes. Supplies are flown in when she needs them.


The island is covered in fog for 125 days of the year and is a treacherous shipping hazard, racking up 300 shipwrecks over the centuries, affording it the nickname ‘graveyard of the Atlantic.’ The most recent wreck was in 1981.


Sable Island became a National Park Reserve in June of 2013. National Parks staff drop by from time to time throughout the year to remind Zoe Lucas she’s not alone in the world.