In the early 1500's Spanish, Portuguese, French and English fishermen crossed the Atlantic Ocean to catch the abundent
cod in the cold waters around Avalon.
For their seasonal camps they needed natural harbours and soon Basque
fishermen found the ideal place, a secluded bay behind protective hills and with a narrow entrance.
They called the
place after St John and the location first shows up on a Portuguese map from 1519.
In the 17th century a permanent English
community was set up at St Johns and the population slowly grew to become the largest in Newfoundland.
The entrance, called
the Narrows, proved ideal to protect against attacks from pirates, the Dutch and later the French.
placed on Signal Hill to the north, and at Fort Amherst to the south.
These defensive functions remained active through the Second
Worldwar, when the harbour was used by the Allies as an anti submarine base.
Signal Hill and Fort Amherst still show
the remnants of this interesting but violent military history.
A bit to the south is Cape Spear, Newfoundland's most easterly
point. Apart from the 19th century lighthouse there are also the ruins of a WWII gun battery that protected the allied convoys to
and from St Johns.