CHAPTER II.--DESCRIPTIVE. (continued)

Climate and Soil.

  21. Newfoundland enjoys a variable climate which may be said to be milder than that of Canada. The average mean temperature is 41° F. the extreme range being from 0° to 81° F. The thermometer rarely falls below zero. Snow lies from January to April. There is an almost total absence of spring, the summer setting in suddenly in May or June. August is the warmest month of the year and February the coldest. Details showing the range in temperature are given in Appendix B. Planting usually begins towards the end of May and the season closes in October when frosts are apt to occur. The rainfall is ample and conditions favour a rapid growth.

  22. Generally speaking, the soil is light and shallow, but there is a wide range of variations from sand and gravel to heavy clay and loam. Vegetable or peaty soils, characterised as marsh or bog lands, extend over a large part of the Island, and their occurrence may be observed in every district of the country. Owing to lack of drainage and to a deficiency of lime, these soils are not suitable for the production of crops.

  23. The soils of the Avalon Peninsula are mostly of a light pliable clay of considerable depth and medium fertility, with glacial granite boulders predominating. The view of experienced agriculturists is that these soils have lost much of their fertility owing to the failure of cultivators to adopt a system of rotation of crops, and to the time-honoured practice of spreading raw fish on the land as an aid to production instead of mixing it into a compost. The soils in the western part of the Island are mostly sandy or sandy loams; the latter are of greater fertility than the soils found elsewhere. All the valleys that form the watersheds discharging into the great bays contain large areas of excellent soil suitable for agriculture, notably the Codroy Valley, Humber Valley, Exploits Valley, parts of Green and Bonavista Bays, the Gander and Gambo areas, and parts of Placentia and Fortune Bays. Most of these areas are at present thickly timbered.

Communications.

  24. Newfoundland is separated from Labrador and Quebec on the north by the Straits of Belle Isle which at their narrowest point are 9 miles in width; and from Nova Scotia on the south by the Cabot Strait, about 60 miles wide at the narrowest point.

  25. Communication across the Cabot Strait is maintained throughout the year by a steamer belonging to the Newfoundland Government which plies twice a week in winter and three times a week in summer between Port-aux-Basques and North Sydney, Cape Breton. The crossing, 93 miles, takes about 9 hours. From St. John's there are frequent sailings both in summer and winter to Halifax in Nova Scotia, Boston, and New York, a service which is operated by the Furness Red Cross Line, owned and managed by Furness Withy & Company, Limited. During the season of open navigation in the St. Lawrence River, approximately from the end of April to early December, this service is extended to Montreal and the passage takes five days. During the summer months the steamers call at Quebec on the west bound voyage, returning via Charlottetown in Prince Edward Island, and St. Pierre. The distance from St. John's to Halifax via St. Pierre is 539 miles and the passage takes 2 days. From St. John's to Halifax direct the distance is 526 miles and the passage takes 40 hours. The distance from Halifax to Boston is 234 miles and from Halifax to New York 599 miles.

  26. There is a direct passenger service, known as the Furness Line, between Liverpool and St. John's, Halifax and Boston, which is also operated by Furness Withy and Company, Limited. By means of this service the United Kingdom is brought within 6 days' contact with Newfoundland. A passenger service is also maintained in the summer months between Corner Brook and Montreal by the Clarke Steamship Company of Quebec City which takes five to six days.

  27. The Newfoundland Railway, which was built under contract with the Government, let on lease and finally taken over by the Government in 1923, connects St. John's with the North-east, west, and south-west coasts. The main transinsular line, from St. John's to Port-aux-Basques, is 547 miles in length, and the crossing of the Island is accomplished in 26 hours. There are 6 branch lines, on some of which the service is now temporarily suspended; including these, the total length of the Railway is 904 miles. (See Map No. 3.) About 160 miles of branch lines have been abandoned on the ground that they never paid and served no useful purpose which could not be served in other ways. Contact with those parts of the coast which are not served by the Railway, or by roads, and with Labrador, is maintained by Government steamers.

  28. There are 490 miles of first-class roads and 385 miles of second-class roads. In addition, there are some 2,000 miles of local roads in towns and settlements and 700 miles of roads connecting one settlement with another. The total mileage is thus estimated at 3,575. A policy of highway development was started in 1925, as a result of which many improvements have been undertaken in recent years. It will be seen, however, from Map No. 4, on which the details are shown, that there are still many parts of the Island with which communication is only possible by sea.

  29. In 1931 there were 663 Post Offices, but owing to the necessity for economy these have been reduced to 313. Telegraph Offices have similarly been reduced from 71 to 31 and Telephone Offices from 347 to 214. The number of combined Postal and Telegraph Offices now stands at 168, compared with 196 in 1931. The total mileage of telegraph and telephone lines is 4,500 and 1,200 respectively. Increasing use is being made of communication by wireless, particularly in the north of the Island, where it has been found economical to substitute small wireless installations for telegraph and telephone equipment.

  30. A wireless station at Cape Race, operated by Marconi's Wireless Telegraph Company, is in constant communication with ships at sea. There is also a direction-finding station at Cape Race and a similar station has been recently erected on Signal Hill at St. John's.

Signal Hill, St. John's, n.d.
Photo by Holloway. From the album of photographs furnished to the Newfoundland Royal Commission, August 1933. Courtesy of the Centre for Newfoundland Studies Archives (Coll-207), Memorial University of Newfoundland Library, St. John's, Newfoundland.
Larger Version (68 kb)
Signal Hill

  31. There are transatlantic-cable stations at Heart's Content in Trinity Bay, Bay Roberts and Harbour Grace in Conception Bay and St. John's, while cables at Placentia and Port-aux-Basques connect with the United States and Canada.

Image description updated May, 2004.



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