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.
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
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.
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
Image description updated May, 2004.