Exploring the Newfoundland Interior:
Geology and Communications
Cormack's journeys did not stimulate a rush into the Newfoundland interior,
which for much of the 19th century remained a Mi'kmaq preserve. It was not until
1839 that Joseph Beete Jukes (1811-1869) was appointed geological surveyor, and
spent 16 months travelling and writing his report. His surveys were mainly
coastal, but he did ascend the Humber River as far as Deer Lake, and then,
with a Mi'kmaq guide named Sulleon, travelled from St. George's Bay to Grand Lake,
exploring the area for nine days. Like Cormack, Jukes obtained a good deal of
geographical information from the Mi'kmaq. In 1840, he travelled up the
Exploits River as far as the Grand Falls.
|Joseph Beete Jukes, ca. 1860.
Courtesy of the Centre for Newfoundland Studies, Queen Elizabeth II Library, Memorial
University of Newfoundland, St. John's, Newfoundland
The Newfoundland legislature refused to continue funding Jukes' survey
after 1840, and he returned to England, where his Excursions in and about
Newfoundland, during the years 1839 and 1840 was published in 1842. This
is a highly readable account of his time in the colony. His geological
findings - he was cautious about Newfoundland's mining and agricultural
potential - were published separately. Jukes also published a map, which
summarizes knowledge of the interior at that time.
A major but non-geological journey across the southern interior was made
in 1851 by Frederic Newton Gisborne (1824-1892), an early promoter of
telegraphs, first in the Maritimes and then in Newfoundland, where he
incorporated the Newfoundland Electric Telegraph Company. He built a
telegraph line from St. John's to Carbonear, and then turned to his scheme
for a line from St. John's to Cape Ray, which would then connect with Cape
Breton. Travelling with Mi'kmaq and some white companions - who did not go
further than White Bear Bay - Gisborne made an arduous journey through
southern Newfoundland, keeping a detailed journal throughout. The survey
certainly helped reshape the map of the area. Dramatic stories in some sources
of Gisborne being abandoned by his companions and of Mi'kmaq dying or deserting
have been shown to be untrue. The land line to Cape Ray was eventually completed
in 1856 - at great expense and with considerable difficulty. Gisborne Lake
is named after him.
Mountain Range at Cape Ray, 1866.
Watercolour by Capt. Francis George Coleridge (1838-1923)
Courtesy of National Archives of Canada, C-102483.
Gisborne was also interested in mining, and recommended to the Newfoundland
government that there should be a geological survey of the island. The Geological
Survey of Newfoundland was eventually established in 1864, with Alexander Murray
(1810-1884) as its first director. His assistant from 1868 was James P. Howley
(1847-1918), who himself became director on Murray's retirement in 1883. Until
the discontinuance of the Survey in 1909, Murray and Howley, and then Howley alone,
explored and mapped the northeastern and western coastlines, central Newfoundland,
and other sections of the interior.
In 1865, for instance, Murray crossed overland from Halls Bay to St. George's Bay,
and in 1874 explored the basins of the Gander and Exploits rivers. Howley made some
extensive and difficult treks between the south and northeast coasts, as in 1888, when
he went up the Bay d'Est River to Meelpaeg Lake, and then across to Exploits. He spent
several seasons in the Grand Lake area, looking for commercially-viable seams of coal.
||Geological Map of Newfoundland, 1919.
James Howley's 1919 geological map of Newfoundland. Larger version more
clearly shows the geological features of the island, William Cormack's
1822 traverse, the 1875 railway survey, and the extent of the railroad
and telegraph lines.
Courtesy of the Map Library, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's, Newfoundland.
with more information (67 kb).
The reports of the Geological Survey, and the maps published by Murray (1873, 1879)
and Howley (1907, 1919), made Newfoundland's land-based resources much better known, firmly
established the geography of the interior, and were the essential preliminary to the
building of the railway (1881 to 1897) and the development of forest industries.
Murray and Howley were not the only non-Natives to venture into the interior. As
the century progressed, the surveyors, engineers and labourers who built the telegraph
lines and the railway became familiar with the inland regions of the island. In
addition, visitors coming to hunt and fish - the first tourists - made their
contributions. By the end of the 19th century the island's interior was no longer
the mystery to Europeans that it had been when Cormack set off on his expedition.
©1998, J.K. Hiller