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Channel - Port aux Basques
Commonly known as Port aux Basques. The gateway port to Newfoundland, handles 90% of all passenger and road freight traffic arriving and leaving the island of Newfoundland. In 2005, more than 500,000 passengers passed through Channel-Port aux Basques. As a port for Newfoundland, it's strategic value is found in the fact that it is twice as close to Nova Scotia as any other Newfoundland road traffic port, and thus at least twice as much traffic can be moved between Newfoundland and Nova Scotia in any given period of time. Ice-free even in heavy ice years. Sheltered harbour affording sanctuary to stormstricken vessels since the 1500s (two 17th century astrolabes found on shipwrecks in the area).
The communities of Channel and Port aux Basques amalgamated in 1945. Origin of the name Channel is unknown; not likely connected with the Channel Islands as often thought. Origin of the name Port aux Basques: a 17th century sheltering and watering place for Basque whalers on their way to Labrador. No known Basque remains in the area. Port aux Basques was first shown near it's correct location on Johannes Van Keulen's 1687 map. Port aux Basques Harbour was charted by Captain James Cook (on the Grenville) in September 1766. The area likely received settlers (deserters) from Cape Breton Island after 1713 (Treaty of Utecht) when France withdrew from most of North America. Channel first reported in the Census of 1857 with 312 people. Port aux Basques first reported in the Census of 1891 with 77 people. Edward Wix first clergyman to visit area and hold a service and baptismal in 1835.
From the journal of Missionary Archdeacon Edward Wix:

May 5, 1835: (I) proceeded to Port au Basque, or the Channel, in the same evening. Had I been here on the Sunday previous, I might have had a congregation of 200, there were so many boats and vessels belonging to Fortune Bay, which were bound to the western fishery at anchor here. I assembled fifty persons, and baptized ten children.
The Church of England and the Methodist Church shared a church built in 1845. Same church consecrated a Church of England church in 1855 by Bishop Field. Telegraph station established in 1857. Fishery did well with trade to Boston, Nova Scotia, and St. John's in the mid-1800s. Area population 1024 in 1891. Steamer and train service inaugurated in 1898, with three SS Bruce steamer trips a week to Nova Scotia. Judge and historian Daniel W. Prowse was on the maiden SS Bruce crossing to Nova Scotia. Daily train service to St. John's in 1913. SS Caribou torpedoed in 1942 by German U-Boat: 137 fatalities; 20 widows in the area. Read about the last voyage of the S.S. Caribou at this link: The Last Voyage of the S.S. Caribou.

Area voted overwhelmingly (~89%) to join Canada (1949) in two 1948 referenda. MV William Carson, first modern automobile capable Newfoundland ferry, made maiden voyage from Port aux Basques in 1958. MV Caribou (after SS Caribou), first modern Newfoundland superferry, made maiden voyage in 1986. Last railway train left Port aux Basques in 1988. Australian built fast-ferry MV Max Mols operated between Port aux Basques and North Sydney June to September 2000 (discontinued). Newfoundland's Justice Minister in 2000, Kelvin Parsons, area MHA and native of Port aux Basques.
Area economy dominated by Marine Atlantic operations, fish processing plant, government departments, tourism related businesses, service industries.
Local viewpoints: Coast Guard Traffic Management Centre, Newtown, Grand Bay West.
Noteworthy: Caribou Bed and Breakfast, Gulf Museum, Heritage Train Centre, Tourism Interpretation Centre.

Favourite attractions in the Port aux Basques area:

  • The Gulf Museum in downtown Port aux Basques. Mushrow Astrolabe is on display during the summer months.

  • S.S. Caribou monument in front of Hotel-Port aux Basques.

  • Railway Heritage Centre near the entrance to Port aux Basques.

  • Provincial Government Tourist Information Centre on the Trans-Canada Highway.

  • Public Library (internet access).

  • JT Cheeseman Provincial Park and Cape Ray Beach.

  • Codroy Valley and Ramsar Protected wetland.

  • Piping Plovers (endangered) on Cape Ray Beach.

  • Wave Forest near Bear Cove Brook.

  • The view from the top of Table Mountain.


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