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  Researching the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site of Canada
  Recherche sur la Forteresse-de-Louisbourg Lieu historique national du Canada

MARCONI TRAIL

HISTORICAL NOTES

Early Settlement

For countless millennia the native Micmac people hunted in the forests and fished in the lakes and rivers around what is now the Marconi Trail. The first regular white visitors were the 16th century Breton and Basque fishermen who built shelters along the shore where they dried and salted their catches of cod.

Then In 1713 come the establishment of the renowned French seaport and fortified town of Louisbourg.

Soon after Its founding Louisbourg developed Into one of the busiest fishing and commercial ports along the Atlantic seaboard. That economic importance, combined with Its sftte8ic position, led to the construction of fortifications that made Louisbourg a walled town, one of France's North American strongholds. Twice besieged, in 7745 and 7 758, Louisbourg was twice conquered. After the second siege, in which 27,000 armed forces struggled for supremacy, Louisbourg slowly faded from the world scene.

Today's Louisbourg

A "must see" on any visit to Cape Breton, the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Park is a reconstruction of almost one-quarter of the original 18th-century town. With over 50 buildings -and many costumed animators, Louisbourg Is Canada's most ambitious outdoor museum. In the course of a day you can enjoy 18-century cooking, music and dance, gardening, musket firing and artillery salutes, craftsmen at their trades, and servants at their chores. It's Canadian history at its best.

In the nearby modem town of Louisbourg there am local museums, restaurants, accommodations, and other services. Fishing Is still a staple industry in Cape Breton. Along the Marconi Trail you can flnd fish plants at Louisbourg and Glace Bay, and inshore and lobster fishing at the picturesque communities of Main-a-Dieu and Port Morien.

Coal Mining

Organized coal mining began In Cape Breton at the "French Mine" near Port Morien In 1720, and was a booming Industry by the 1890's with the advent of steam power. In 7895 the Sydney and Louisbourg railway began hauling coal to the ice-free port of Louisbourg, and in Its heyday moved four million tons annually. The vanished coal town of Broughton was planned for a population of 70,000, but only a luxury hotel and a few other buildings were ever completed. Coal and steel complexes were created In the Glace Bay and Sydney areas at the turn of the century, and by 1975 over .72,000 miners were producing one-third of Canada's coal. The miner's life then was hard and dangerous, and "check-offs" (deductions) and the "pluck me" (company store) took much of his pay. Cheaper oil caused the decline of "King Coal" after the 1940's, but it remains an important Industry today.

The story of coal mining in this area Is told at the Miners' Museum, situated In Glace Bay overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. A highlight of a visit to the museum is an underground tour of a coal mine guided by a retired miner. Also at the site are typical miners' houses, a company store, and the Miners' Village Restaurant serving home style meals.

The Marconi Trans-Atlantic Radio Service

Guglielmo Marconi began experimenting with radio communication in 1895 at the age of twenty and in December 1901 he transmitted the first radio signals across the Atlantic, from Cornwall, England, to St. John's, Newfoundland. In 1902 he built a station at Table Head in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, and from here he transmitted the first complete radio messages across the Atlantic Ocean. The first twenty-four hour commercial service began in 1907 between his powerful new stations at Marconi Towers near Glace Bay, and at Clifden, Ireland. This was extended to a duplex (simultaneous two-way) service with the opening of receiving stations at Louisbourg, Nova Scotia and at Letterfrack, Ireland In 1913. The service was phased out in the 1930's and was replaced by more modem technology.

Now the great stations are just a memory, but this milestone in the history of communications is commemorated by the Marconi Trail coastal highway that links the three Marconi station sites, and by the Marconi National Historic Site at Table Head, operated by the Canadian Parks Service. Exhibits in the display centre at Table Head depict the early work of Marconi leading up to his trans-Atlantic success, and include a model of the station as it appeared In 1902.

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