National Geographic : 1920 Jul
THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE ture of gas, with all the consequent by product possibilities. In the good old days when coal could be had for a shilling or so a ton, the women folk of the miners at one of the Sydney workings used to provide hot water for the weekly wash by the simple practice of digging a hole ten or twelve inches deep at the water's edge, filling it with pebbles and setting a candle to it. By this means they had plenty of boiling water, and the supply continued for weeks or months unless the fire was extinguished. This incident has been quoted in a government report to illustrate the high percentage of gas. No estimate is given of the cost of the hot water at present prices of coal, but it is surely proof of Sydney's claim to coal "at tide-water" the only coal at tide-water on the Atlantic seaboard. With this unlimited supply of fuel suitable for coke, limestone in abun dance, and iron ore near at hand, Cape Breton has the three requisite raw mate rials for that "cheapest ton of steel" which Andrew Carnegie has said assured a nation supremacy. But, above all, Cape Breton's commer cial advantage lies in her facilities for water transport. All other important iron-producing districts of the continent are far inland. Cape Breton's maritime position relieves her industry of the bur den of railway freight hauls for raw material and gives her a corresponding advantage over inland competitors in de livery of the finished product to foreign markets. In 1918 the island produced 512,377 net tons of steel ingots and 415,808 net tons of pig-iron. Figures of the actual production of war material by the Syd ney industries are not yet available, but they may be estimated from the fact that an army of 16,ooo men was employed in the steel plant and collieries through more than four years of war, working night and day, the products ranging from steel rails, shell blanks, and barbed wire to chemicals for the manufacture of high explosives. During the war 705,000 gal lons of toluene were manufactured in Cape Breton. Due to their part in the making of steel, the island's rich deposits of lime stone and dolomite are, next to coal, the most extensively developed of her min eral resources. The production of lime stone alone, for 1918, was considerably more than 400,000 tons. The largest areas are operated by the corporations controlling the Sydney industries and all of them are near the invaluable water transport which the Bras d'Or Lakes afford. The city of Sydney shares with the towns of North Sydney and Sydney Mines, across the harbor, one of the finest ports in North America. It was founded as the capital of the island when Cape Breton was a separate province, and was a garrison town up to the time of the Crimean War. Though its founding completed Louis burg's ruin, it never in any way ap proached the military importance of that fortress. But it has a military heritage of some well-laid streets, and its park is outside the town because, so the story goes, one of the military governors lost the title to the original site at a poker game. Sydney's coal and steel industries are rapidly making it a great commercial center, and it has now a five-million-dol lar ship-plate rolling mill, which presages steel shipbuilding on its own waterfront with its own steel. NORSEMEN CAME TO THE ISLAND FOR TIMBER In earlier times the whole island was well wooded with hemlock, oak, ash, birch, elm, maple, beech, and pine, as well as the spruce and fir now predomi nant. The Norsemen came here for tim ber, and within a generation the craft of the Clyde shipbuilders loading lumber were familiar in Bras d'Or waters. Forest fires have depleted the finest areas, and the export has largely fallen off, but in 1918 the Cape Breton col lieries used nearly 12,000,000 lineal feet of pit timber, most of it produced on the island. The wood-pulp industry is a source of large revenue and one in which much American capital has been invested.