Our 2 Astrolabes, dated from the early 1600's were discovered near Channel-Port aux Basques. They are both in mint condition and in working order. A very rare and valuable find for Newfoundland and all of Canada.

Bruce II Sports Centre
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About our 2 Astrolabes
Explore our connection with age-old astronomical instruments used by navigators. Two astrolabes are featured in Channel-Port aux Basques, dating from the 1600's.

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Town of Channel-Port aux Basques
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Our History

The Community of Channel-Port aux Basques

Channel-Port aux Basques, the Gateway to Newfoundland, has been welcoming visitors for 500 years, from Basque Fisherman in the 1500's who found the ice free harbour a safe haven, to ferry passengers who commenced arriving on the "Bruce" steamship in 1898 to take the railway across the island.

The area was not settled on a year-round basis until fisher-folk from the Channel Islands established Channel in the early 1700's, although people had been working the south coast fishery year-round for a century before this. The name Port aux Basques came into common usage from 1764 onwards following surveys of Newfoundland undertaken by Captain James Cook on behalf of the British Admiralty. Captain Cook went on to fame, if not fortune, as a result of his surveys in the Pacific Ocean, but it was he who surveyed the St. Lawrence prior to Wolfe's Assault of Quebec and was awarded 50 pounds gratuity for his "selfless service".

The region gained a strong French influence following the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 and the legacy remains in many of the place names on the coast. Fox Roost used to be Fosse Rouge, while Rose Blanche was Roche Blanche, or white rock, which is very obvious when you walk to the lighthouse. Isle aux Morts, or Isle of the Dead (named for the number of shipwrecks there) has retained its identity unscathed.

A major change occurred in southwest Newfoundland in 1818 when England ceded fishing rights on the coast to the American's who had been fishing the coast for two decades. This treaty continued into the 20th century and, as a result, the area is often referred to as the American Coast. The American connection gave the local occupants a back door through which they could trade and avoid the control of the fishery exercised by the English and Jersey merchant companies. As a result, the coast also has strong family connections with New England States.

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.

What created Port aux Basques was the coming of the railway in 1898. The location was chosen by the Reid Company, who had been contracted by the Newfoundland government to build a railway across the province, partly because of its proximity to Cape Breton, but also because the area was usually ice-free through the winter. By 1881 construction began on the Reid Newfoundland Railway and on June 29th, 1898, the first train left St. John’s at 7:00pm. It arrived in Port aux Basques on June 30th at 10:45pm ... a journey of 27 hours and 45 minutes!

Railroad passengers then went by sea to North Sydney, Nova Scotia, on the first ferry, the “S.S. Bruce”. This passenger-freight vessel made the crossing for 20 years before being replaced by other vessels.

Newfoundland saw much activity during the Second World War with one of the Loran C master stations on Mouse Island operating from 1942-45. Also in 1942, the US military erected radio and telephone repeater stations on Table Mountain, one of seven installations across the province.

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 new super ferry “M.V. Caribou” with luxury accommodations, named after its predecessor, is making the crossing in less than six hours.

With an emergence of the fishery, union of the Newfoundland Railroad and ferry crossing the Cabot Strait, Channel and Port aux Basques was growing rapidly and merged into a single community in November 1945.

Port aux Basques owes is settlement in part to its strategic location, aiding transportation, and its rich fishing grounds. Today, Channel - Port aux Basques is a community of some 4,319 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.

Canada's Ferry Gateway
to Newfoundland
The gulf crossing between North Sydney and Channel-Port aux Basques is always a memorable lifetime experience. The ferries are among the largest ice breaking ferries in the world. They look like cruise ships and they can each take 1200 passengers and 350 cars. Book early to ensure availability.


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