National Geographic : 1949 Jun
Fort and Lighthouse Guard the Rocky Narrows Leading to St. John's To a passenger at sea the cliffs appear unbroken, sure to dash the incoming ship to pieces. Suddenly the narrow cleft appears (opposite page). In olden times it was closed to hostile vessels with chains. In World War II, guns studded the crags. When mist creeps in, the foghorn booms from Fort Amherst on the point. Fog and currents make the coast treacherous; many a ship has left her bones on Newfoundland rocks. From Gander I flew southeast to Torbay Airport 5 miles northwest of St. John's, capital and chief town of Newfoundland (page 789). A city of 57,000, St. John's is the lusty metropolis of the Ohio-size island that is home to 316,000 folk of British and Irish descent. Denver, Colorado, has more people than the whole island of Newfoundland. The Narrows, a deep cleft in the coastal cliffs, leads into a capacious basin a mile and a quarter long and half a mile wide. Concrete gun emplacements around the harbor gateway yawned hollowly. Long-barreled teeth had been pulled. War's recent presence lingered in the U. S. Air Force's gleaming Fort Pepperrell, at the north edge of town. GI's strolled Water Street, "main drag" of St. John's. Building and repairs blossomed along the steep streets and among the smoky brick and wood structures of the town. The St. John's Housing Corporation had refurbished a whole suburb with modern homes and apartments. Yet St. John's still was a time-tarnished old seaport, too busy to worry much about show. In the still dusk I wandered through the town. A wisp of breeze from the harbor wafted the breath of the port: fish and the salt-and-seaweed landwash smell, aromas of lumber, oil, tar, and-yes!-a whiff of rum. Children played in the darkening canyons of the streets. Late fishing boats putt-putted to the wharves. A star popped out above the South Side hills. Sixteen Years of Ups and Downs In the last 16 years Newfoundland has counted trials and triumphs. In 1933 the island-at that time a British territory with Dominion status-went bank rupt. A Commission of Government under the eye of the British Crown established emer gency rule in February, 1934. Years of eco nomic ups and downs followed. World War II struck. Newfoundland's strategic position thrust her abruptly into the spotlight. There she rode, an unsinkable aircraft carrier, splitting the vast distances between the American democracies and em battled Europe.* Canadian and American forces built air and naval bases across the island's breadth and assumed the job of her defense. Newfound * See "Newfoundland, North Atlantic Rampart," by George Whiteley, Jr., NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGA ZINE, July, 1941.