Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Ruins of Fort Amherst

A couple of weeks back I attended a conference at Memorial University in St. John's, Newfoundland on research methods. It was a great conference. I got to present a paper, got some solid feedback, and made some new friends and contacts. I also took the opportunity to check out the city, some historic sites, and what I could of the local scene. As it turns out, some of the nicest spots in St. John's are historic sites or have some historic relevance. There are numerous abandoned military installations all around the harbor and along the cliffs of Newfoundland. Back after the WWII there was a 99 year lease that was made allowing the United States to build strategic air and radar bases. But before that there were a number of fortifications built during the colonial wars.
One of which was Fort Amherst, the foundations of which were laid down by the British in 1777. It was named after the general who retook St. John's from the French in a decisive battle in 1762. Originally it was intended as a defensive line to protect boats unable to enter the harbor because of high winds. Over the years it has fallen into terrible disrepair, but throughout the fort has been used as a defensive position by the military.

I decided to take my own unofficial tour of the location. The ruins of a few bunkers and cannon emplacements are all that is pretty much left of the Fort. Steel fencing is piled up and strewn messily about. Crushed stone, chunks of cement, and rocks litter the grounds. The remains of two large, rusted cannons are on the North and South emplacements. Graffiti is all over the walls and inside the bunkers. Various forms of signature graffiti are present, but also general rantings and written messages.
The Fort was built right on the southern tip of the entrance to The Narrow's leading into St. John's harbor. It's surrounded by these massive rock formations with some pretty dangerous crags that go quite the ways down and into the constant crashing waves of the North Atlantic Ocean. Sitting on the rocks and  just taking the ocean air, I watched the fog roll in further down the shore, I had Signal Hill up on the opposite side riding high on the horizon, and the mouth of the St. John's harbor inland. Great spot. Here are the rest of my shots of the Fort.
I've got some great pics from the abandoned Red Cliffs Radar Base that a couple of the locals were nice enough to guide me about. Also more from the streets of St. John's and a lot of catching up to do on the local scene back here in Montreal.  Stay posted lots more to come.

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