Commonly known as Port aux Basques. The gateway
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
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
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
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
200, there were so many boats and vessels belonging to Fortune Bay,
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
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.
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
Provincial Government Tourist Information Centre on the