Sydney Harbour's Contribution

To Atlantic Canada's Coastal Defence.

The strategic importance of Sydney harbour was recognized from the earliest days of European exploration of the region because of its strategic position with respect both to the immensely rich cod fishery and the seaborne entrance to Canada, as well as its proximity to coal seams.


Except for the serious drawback of being icebound in winter, Sydney harbour is almost ideally situated for the defence of ocean trade routes and important coastal waters and is in fact better located than Halifax to serve as a base for the defence of Canadian trade, being closer to the important routes which pass through the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Although the French chose to locate their great fortress at Louisbourg, apparently because its harbour was less plagued by ice, Samuel Holland, the Surveyor General of Quebec and the Northern District of North America, argued in 1768 that they had made a serious misjudgment.

Following the destruction of its fortress, the once-thriving commercial entrepot of Louisbourg was abandoned by the British and quickly contracted to a very small fishing village. When Cape Breton was constituted as a colony in 1785, the new capital was located at the top of Sydney harbour. That year, when Sydney according to a visiting British officer consisted of "not a dozen Families" in addition to six companies of the 33rd regiment, there was situated at what he called "the Coal Mines, at the entrance of this river," a "Battery on the edge of the rock, above the Road" which he thought was being manned "by Coal-heavers, and Blacksmiths."1

This signified the recognition of the importance of protecting both the harbour and the coal mines from any possible enemy attack.

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Author: Brian Douglas Tennyson

Article and Image Source: http://www.cnrs-scrn.org

Keywords: Sydney, Coastal, Fortifications, Australia, Canada, History


Brian Douglas Tennyson

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