St. Johns Across the Narrows: too Slippery for Amherst

Morning coffee at Signal Hill yielded an interesting view of Fort Amherst. If you look carefully at the centre of the image below you will see the lighthouse, the first in NL guarding the entrance to St. John’s harbour, as it has since about 1777.  It beckoned, as these things tend to do.


Before leaving Signal Hill lets take a quick look around. The most imposing thing there, besides the hill itself which is, in fact awesome (stick around and you’ll see some more) is Cabot tower. It was  built in 1897 to commemorate the 400 anniversary of the ‘discovery’ of Newfoundland by Zuan Chabotto (also known as John Cabot). This, of course in spite of the fact that the Norse were the first Europeans here. L’Ance Aux Meadows being the authenticated site of Leif (pronounced lay-iff) Eriscon’s short-lived colony, founded about 1100 years ago. More importantly we have also been home to several Native American cultures down through the millennia. Whatever. Cabot Tower it is.


The sign shows the direction and distance to places across the Atlantic. Any way you look there’s a lot of cold, deep ocean in between!

Signal hill is the site where, in 1901 Marconi is said to have received the first trans Atlantic wireless signal, although, in truth this was not independently confirmed until the following year. Many think this is where the hill got its name but the fact is it was known as Signal hill for hundreds of years previous to that event. Local businesses maintained spotters who would wait at the top of the hill for sight of their vessels coming in. Sightings and other information would then be relayed to the incoming ships and to the workers in the port via signal flags placed at the top of the hill so the appropriate preparations could be made for the arrival.

On one side is the Atlantic and on all other sides the city of St. John’s fans out. The pictures above show more or less South. This one is more-or-less looking West. You can see the north side of the harbour and a bit of the south side. The road along the south side leads to Fort Amherst.


The serpentine road leads down to the harbour.

If you look in the top middle of the photo you will see Kenmount hill. My house is four fifths of the way up that hill but just on the other side. That hill is home to, among other things, at least four moose and one coyote. In the winter it’s great for cross-country skiing or just plain hiking. Once in the woods you become completely unaware of the city that surrounds you. But, that’s for another time.

Here’s what you see looking a bit more toward the North. The airport is just beyond the wooded area at the top of the photo.


Enough of the hill. We’re going down to the harbour and skirting around to the South Side.


Here we are down by the water’s edge on the south side. The tide is fairly high and all you’d have to do is jump over those rocks if you’d like a nice refreshing dip. See the fishing boats tied up at the Prosser’s Rock wharf? Cabot tower is right above that bluish-green crab boat.


Turning the camera the other way and panning across the harbour you can see the stupid wreck of a tug we got as a bit of a trade for the Lyubov Orlova. The Orlova was a cruise ship left stranded here when its owners went bankrupt. It rusted away, tied up on the other side of the harbour, just behind that tug for several years until it was finally bought to be scrapped. A month or so ago the new owners engaged that tug to bring it to where it was going but the Orlova had its own plans. Once in the ocean it broke free and began drifting. The crew was unable to retrieve it and the tug was ordered back to St. Johns where it is currently impounded for safety reasons. The last I heard of the Orlova it was drifting toward Ireland and, maybe, taking on water. It will likely sink before making landfall. Quite an ignoble end. And now we are left with that dumb tug in return. Eyesore for eyesore.

Out on the wharf by Prosser’s Rock it looks like this.


Those things piled up are Crab Pots. The boats and their crews venture offshore into rough, fairly deep water in search of snow crab. It’s tough, dangerous work.


You can only drive for so far before the road comes to an end. I walked until I got to here. Look right across at Cabot tower. It’s about 160 metres straight up that granite cliff face. Want to climb? Me neither!

The gut that leads out of St. John’s harbour is called, appropriately enough, “The Narrows.” It’s a bit of a tight squeeze for larger vessels. It also keeps most of the Atlantic swells out.


Here’s what it looks like in the opposite direction.


A few seconds of video shows the view better.

Walking the rest of the way out to Fort Amherst was the plan but mother nature was not in the mood. The road up was almost pure ice and the wind started having more control over my movements than did my legs. Since I did not have the right boots on it made sense to conclude that the fort would have to wait for another time. You’ll have to settle for a bit more video looking out in the general direction of the lighthouse.

Time to skate back to the van.


The road here is very narrow. It’s a bit of a drive ahead and I’m somewhat disappointed but that’s better than a slip-dip in the harbour. Another time.


About Maurice A. Barry

Coordinator: Teaching and Learning Commons, Faculty of Education, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Parent & Husband. eLearning consultant/coordinator. Program Development Specialist - eLearning (Department of Education; Retired). Writer: over 40 Math/Physics texts/webs. Developer & Manager of web content. Geek. Not into awards but loves comments.
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21 Responses to St. Johns Across the Narrows: too Slippery for Amherst

  1. Mjollnir says:

    Nice post Maurice. Good to see a bit more of your home area. 🙂

  2. Really nice. I grew up in Boston, spent summers on the south shore, so know a little about the ocean. You’re images remind me however of the north shore of Massachusetts – Gloucester and Marblehead. I also spent a few summers, while in college, in the Isles of Shoals off New Hampshire and Maine … these places would remind you of St. Johns very much, I think. Thanks again for the tour – perhaps you can provide an update sometime during the summer months! D

  3. Jane Fritz says:

    Terrifc pics. I hope when the icebergs start coming you’ll share those as well!

  4. marsocmom says:

    I love your travelblogs, Maurice! It is a part of the world that I will no doubt never visit, and I bet it’s even more beautiful in the summer.

  5. Once again another cool post with great pictures. I can feel myself begin to shiver a bit just looking at them. I can see why you are anxious to have some sun and warmer weather.

  6. By the way Maurice … I forgot to ask about the video posts. You’ve got to payup the premium for this … right? And, after doing so, what format did you upload? Were these taken with your DSLR or your point-n-click? I don’t suppose you did it with a video camera? If with the point-n-click … how large was the file? Let me now what you know. I’m thinking I’d like to post a video of our cream separator in action! Thanks. D.

    • Being the cheap-arse that I am there’s no end to what I’ll do to save money. No I don’t pay the premium to upload video. Instead I upload the video to my YouTube account, set privacy to “unlisted” and then just copy/paste the video URL right into the WordPress post. The web browser does all the magic. I will likely soon stop uploading the pictures too and instead put them in my account too. While I do have a nice DSLR and access to some very nice video cams through work I have to admit that all the videos and most of the pictures come from my camera phone. The only real drawback is, of course, I can’t zoom. Its okay…I love walking.

      • Imgur? Never heard of it? Tell me more.

        • is a web service that lets you upload and share images. All you do is create an account there or link it to an existing one–a facebook or twitter account, for example–and that’s it. Instead of uploading your images to your wordpress account, which is limited, you can instead upload them to imjur. Copy the URL for the image you uploaded and, instead of linking to an image you uploaded to wordpress, link to the web-based version on imgur. In that way you can make your allocated space go further. It’s the same with the youtube account. There’s no need to waste your wordpress space with uploaded videos when you can link yo ones you uploaded to youtube instead.

    • My phone is an android phone so I’ve merged my gmail, YouTube, twitter and Facebook accounts on it. WordPress too, in fact I’m doing this on the mobile. When I take a video I just go to the playback area and click “share” then choose what to share it with. I cluck YouTube, title it and hit upload then put the phone down. Later when I want to use the video I just go to YouTube on the pc and since I stay signed in it I just right cluck on the one I want to use and copy the URL. All I have to do is paste it wherever I want in the blog. Like I said its the web browser that displays the video instead of an ugly URL. Cheap and effective…even on mobiles. I don’t bother shooting in 1080p as its pretty much a waste. Standard def or 720p is loads for the web. Files are 5 to 10 megs per minute depending on how busy the scene is. Those wavy ones were particularly busy and ran about 15 megs per minute which is kind of high.

      • Weird … I did not get these replies in my reader … don’t know what’s up. Thanks for the information however … I’ll have to see about this. Hmm … are there WordPress settings for receiving replies to replies? I do not think so … I’ll have to look.

  7. wisejourney says:

    The snow looks like someone sifted icing sugar over St. John

  8. But the sugar was coarse, cold and not very sweet :>)

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