Cabot Tower atop Signal Hill was the primary lookout for attack on St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada.
Signal Hill rises abruptly above the Narrows that separate St. John's Harbour from the Atlantic Ocean. First known as the Lookout, Signal Hill has been used for communication, observation and defense since 1704. The iconic hill was designated as a National Historic Site in 1958.
Mélanie and I take advantage of the complementary continental breakfast at the hotel before driving across downtown for the ascent up Signal Hill Road to the parking lot near Cabot Tower which was constructed in 1897 to honor Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee and the 400th anniversary of John Cabot's discovery of Newfoundland in 1497.
The paved path from the parking area passes the Imperial Powder Magazine built in 1796. There are magnificent views from the top of Signal Hill to Fort Amherst far below near ocean level on the opposite side of the Narrows. The entrance to Cabot Tower, on the Narrows side of the building, is guarded by a stubby cannon on the wooden entrance deck.
The heavy wooden door leads to the interesting and unique ground floor gift shop. Stairs spiral lead to a variety of historical exhibits and, at the top, the flag room displays an array of colorful flags, neatly folded and tucked into wall-cabinet cubicles. The flags would be hoisted on masts above the tower to notify St. John's merchants and the general population of changing weather and seafaring traffic. The observation point information allowed the citizenry, or military defense advance notice for preparation.
Guglielmo Marconi made history here when he received the first radio signal from across the Atlantic Ocean at Signal Hill on December 12, 1901. He became a Nobel Prize Winner in 1909 for his pioneer work in radio signal transmission.
The communications exhibit inside Cabot Tower hosts many generations of equipment and is still a functioning amateur radio station. Call letters are on the wall above the map of the world.
Following the self-conducted tour of the inside of Cabot Tower, attention is immediately drawn to the cannons below at Queen's Battery and the incredible views over St. John's Harbour and the city of St. John's.
Weather is fickle, alternating between drizzle and sun. Sunny spots drifting across the landscape highlight ground features in their path and make for interesting photographic opportunities.
Well constructed and maintained pathways alternating on pavement, boardwalk and gravel transfer us from Cabot Tower, around and down to the Queen's Battery below.
It seems unfair I am not allowed to sit on the cannons.
People must understand: I am not always above retaliation.
Mélanie and I arrive at the Queen's Battery to tour the protective tunnels surrounding the old stone barracks and ammunition storage structures. Numerous cannons on turrets, point like fingers towards vulnerable directions and are quite capable of defending a large area surrounding Signal Hill.
From Queen's Battery, Mélanie and I take a trail which initially provides an excellent view of Ross's Valley above the Narrows where ocean surf crashes turquoise and white against the 500 million year old coastal shoreline below Cabot Tower. There are a substantial number of hiking opportunities in this immediate area.
The lighthouse at Fort Amherst on the other side of the Narrows serves as foreground to the lighthouse on Cape Spear further south on the Newfoundland coast line. Cape Spear is the most easterly point in Canada.
The horizon is consumed by the expanse of the Atlantic Ocean and a slight ocean breeze is accompanied by the endless and relaxing rhythm of surf pounding on rock below us. Ladies' Lookout is of specific historical significance.
The information placard at the top of Ladies' Lookout at Signal Hill above St. John's, Newfoundland.
The ocean air and views, augmented by 'The Rock' and combined with 500 years of often dramatic history, are a humbling experience. The excitement of discovery is tempered by the ordeals and perseverance of the people who made this special place great under extremely challenging conditions and circumstances.
This day, life is further enriched on Signal Hill.