Channel - Port aux Basques is one of the oldest settlements
in Newfoundland. It was named by the Basque fishermen who
visited our shores in the 1500's, as their haven in storms.
The development of Channel - Port aux Basques is closely intertwined with that of communication and transportation in Newfoundland.
In 1856, Samuel Morse (of Morse Code fame) investigated the possibility of laying submarine cable from Cape Ray to Nova Scotia. One year later the cable became a reality.
By 1881 construction began on the Reid Newfoundland Railway and on June 29th, 1898, the first train left St. John’s at 7:00 p.m. It arrived in Port aux Basques on June 30th at 10:45 p.m. ... a journey of 27 hours and 45 minutes.
Passengers then went by sea to North Sydney, N.S., on the first ferry, the “S.S. Bruce”. This passenger-freight vessel made the crossing for 20 years before being replaced by other vessels. In 1942 one of the most notable vessels the “S.S. Caribou” was sunk on the gulf crossing by a German U-boat. Of the 288 on board, 187 lost their lives. A monument now sits at the Legion Memorial Park to commemorate this tragic event. Today, a super ferry “M.V. Caribou” with luxury accommodations, named after its predecessor, is making the crossing in less than six hours.
Examples of Channel - Port aux Basques’ long and colourful heritage in the transportation and fishery industry can be seen at the Gulf Museum on Main Street. Two special historical artifacts at the museum is two “Astrolabes”, late medieval navigational instruments discovered by Port aux Basques resident Wayne Mushrow, on ship wrecks off of Isle aux Morts. The also the Port aux Basques Railway Heritage Centre.
Port aux Basques owes is settlement in part to its strategic location, aiding transportation, and its rich fishing grounds. A fish plant set up by T.J. Hardy Company in 1948 is still in operation today, now under the direction of Gulf Seafood's Ltd. It is these two industries, transportation and the fishery that have provided the main impetus for growth.
Today, Channel - Port aux Basques is a community of some 4634 people. The town, with its modernized facilities, provides shopping, business, education and recreational services to the area; is known as the hub of Southwestern Newfoundland
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