THE BEDFORD BASIN
I must have been tired after all of my exertions yesterday because despite the main railway line and the trains right behind the motel, I went out like a light and that was that. I heard nothing until my alarm went off next morning. After breakfast, I prepared myself for a full day's walking. There's a lot to see in Halifax and I don't really have a great deal of time.
If you remember last night, I showed you by the light of the streetlamps the entrance to Halifax harbour. The northern part of the harbour between Halifax and Dartmouth is what is known as The Narrows and behind The Narrows the harbour opens up into what is called the Bedford Basin.
This is the most significant part of the harbour. No ship can reach here without running the gauntlet of whatever it is that the defenders might install along the harbour and the Narrows, and that's about ... ohhh - I dunno - about 8 kilometres.
You also have to consider that back in the 18th Century sailors were pretty much at the mercy of tides and winds and so they couldn't always choose the track that they sailed. You can see therefore how impregnible the port of Halifax could be, and why it made an excellent choice for a British naval base back in 1749.
Another thing about the Bedford Basin is that it is deep. Halifax is said to be the world's deepest ice-free port and also the world's second-largest natural harbour. You can tell this by the size of the ships that are here at anchor. Just look at this monster container ship that's at the quayside.
In due course I'll tell you a story about this particular ship, but in the meantime you might note its logo - ACL - Atlantic Container Lines. Does this ring any bells with you? If you were around in the early 1980s then it might.
And so with the early morning sun at my back instead of shining directly into the camera lens, I can take a photo of another ship that is anchored in Bedford Basin
This is a naval vessel of some description, either a destroyer or a corvette but I really have no idea. Naval vessels are not really my forte and I can't tell one from another. At a pinch I can tell an aircraft carrier from an ocean-going tug but that's about it.
And do you notice the thing in the foreground? I can tell you a story about these. It's a little-known fact that Michael Jackson one tried to join the US Navy, but his application came to nothing. Tombée á l'eau as the French would say. The recruiting officer told him
"yes, you are right to say that every harbour in the world is full of them, but never mind how it is pronounced, the word is spelled "b-u-o-y""
We'll be meeting the famous Angus L MacDonald Bridge in a short while, but there's a more modern bridge across the Narrows. This carries the main highway across to Dartmouth and is known locally as "The New Bridge". I find that to be rather quaint, seeing as it was built as recently as ... errr ... 1970. You can see how slowly time travels here in Nova Scotia.
According to one of my maps it's called the Toll Bridge, which is quite bizarre as the same map calls the other older bridge the Toll Bridge as well. Another map however calls this here structure the A Murray MacKay Bridge.
Strangely enough, there is not one single spot anywhere where a good view might be had of the A Murray Mackay Bridge. In the end I had to content myself with parking on some kind of private car park belonging to a small factory, and take a photograph from there. If they don't like it, that's rather a shame.
Now I bet that you are all wondering who this A Murray MacKay might have been. I know that I was. Subsequent enquiries revealed that one Alexander Murray MacKay had been chairman of one of these local government bodies, the Halifax-Dartmouth Bridge Commission during the period 1951 to 1971 and it was under his stewardship that both of the bridges were constructed.
The second bridge was named presumably in honour of his work on the Committee. Mind you, the fact that it was necessary to construct a second bridge so soon after the first one (the MacDonald Bridge being built in 1955) shows that maybe the work of this Committee was not as thorough as it might have been. Certainly, the costs of building a second bridge would have been much more that the additional cost of building an adequate bridge in the first place.
In fact, the building of the second bridge was shrouded in ... err ... much controversy. An entire neighbourhood, known as Africville due to many of its inhabitants being of such an ethnic origin, was cleared away for the construction of the approach roads. "Ruthlessly" was how one person described the clearance: "Unnecessarily" was how someone else described it. Others hinted at some kind of darker motives, if you will excuse the term.
Having visited the approach roads, I can say that there seems little that is totally unnecessary, and as an outsider with some kind of civil engineering background I can say that it would be hard for anyone to improve on what was done by doing it in a different fashion.
But the fact remains that the controversy raged for years, at one stage even the United Nations became involved, and that the displaced inhabitants gained some kind of improved financial settlement over what was originally on offer.
And so that is the Bedford Basin for this year. Let's go into town and have a butcher's at the waterfront.