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Saturday, October 29, 2016

Argentia - The Americans Arrive and How Do I Get There?

Remember my post a few weeks back about Argentia?  Now that we've talked about Argentia before the Americans arrived, let's discover what happened after they took up residence.

From Wikipedia  Argentia with ships and aircraft, 1942

Although base construction began at Argentia in December 1940, work did not truly get underway until one month later when 1,500 American construction and engineering personnel arrived aboard the SS Richard Peck. The steamship remained docked in Argentia’s harbour for two years, where it served as living quarters for American workers.

Furlongs Pond

Alongside the Americans, thousands of Newfoundlanders also found work at the construction site. About 4,000 local workers were employed on the base at any one time and, by the end of the war, it is estimated that between 10,000 and 15,000 Newfoundlanders had worked on the base.

hidden guns looking out over the harbor 

With its naval base and air station on the north coast of Argentia Harbour and the army base to the south, the massive installation cost more than any other American military base built overseas during World War II.  Commissioned in 1941, the naval base and air station were fully operational when the United States officially joined the war in December of that year.


By 1943, more than 12,000 American military personnel were stationed at the Argentia base, which extended over 3,392 acres.


Near the end of the war, German prisoners – typically survivors of bombed U-boats – were often interned at Argentia, with the first ones arriving in November 1944. Alongside these prisoners, two captured German destroyers and two captured U-boats also arrived in Argentia for servicing while en route to the United States. It was a dramatic turn of events for a harbour that just five years earlier was largely frequented by local fishing boats.


After World War II the Argentia Naval Air Station began a new age of warfare. Although initially the base began to slow down in activity, as tensions increased between the USSR and the US, many new changes and expansions began occurring at the base.



Once again Argentia's strategic location in the North Atlantic proved useful this time patrolling and surveilling the north Atlantic. Soviet nuclear submarines were the largest threat to the United States and because of this many advance radar and surveillance systems were built at Argentia.

Me and my mom at Argentia Naval base, 1968

My father worked in the garage when he was stationed there in the late 60's and like many young men stationed far from home he met a pretty girl and started a family.  I often wonder how many other babies were born at Argentia Hospital to one American parent and one Canadian parent?  I am in the unique situation of  having a U.S. Department of State birth certificate and also a birth certificate from Newfoundland which gives me the right to choose to reside in Canada as a citizen if I ever decided to do so.

Traces of the American occupation remain

Many Newfoundlanders worked at the base over the following decades, even Wayne had a job on the base as a young man working in the BOQ.  Military activity in the area gradually decreased over the decades until 1994, when the last remaining American forces withdrew from the area and handed over its facilities to the province.

Argentia is now home to Marine Atlantic ferry service 


Today Marine Atlantic ferry service operates the Argentia - North Sydney (Nova Scotia) ferry route annually from mid-June to late September, with the MV Atlantic Vision making the one-way journey across the gulf in approximately 14-16 hours.  Last year I promised financial information on our trip from Wisconsin to Newfoundland towing our fifth wheel and it may have taken me a year to deliver but here they are! 

When viewing their current rates online don't forget to figure in the exchange rate which is in our favor again.  Vehicles are charged by the foot with anything under 20 feet currently being $232 CAD.  The route to Port Aux Basques route takes 5-7 hours and costs less money and is the route most tourists choose, but don't forget the capital of St. John's and many other sights are on the east coast of the island.  We chose to arrive in Argentia (sleeping the whole way on our night sailing) and depart from Port Aux Basques after driving across the island and would definitely recommend it.  All rates are one way.

Ferry to Argentia for 2 passengers and vehicle 50-60 feet = $713.33 USD 
Ferry from Port Aux Basques back to Nova Scotia = $487.39

Overlooking Argentia harbor now
For our month long trip across two countries we also spent about $1700.00 in diesel fuel and averaged $28 a night in campground fees.  We ate out a lot more than usual and spent almost $900 in that category alone!  Cory needed a one way ticket back to Wisconsin and I chose to travel to St. John's one way by plane as well to cut down my time on the road.  Our total costs not including groceries and trinkets was just under $6000.00.  GULP!  Of course the cost is so high because we not only had to get there we had to get back to the same origination point. We put on almost 4,000 miles on the mainland alone, with an additional 900 miles on the island of Newfoundland.  Those who are full timers will obviously not have to go so far and back again which makes a huge difference.

To compare Cory and I just returned from our week long trip.  Our two airline tickets + baggage fees totaled $1002 and we paid $420 CAD/$314 USD for a rental car plus about $100 (current cost is $1.33 CAD per liter) for fuel.  Lodging in our case was free since we stayed with family.

One more post about Argentia to come later on, but I have other things to show you first so stick around!

3 comments:

  1. That must have brought back a lot of happy memories and Wayne looks like he is well away in that old ordinace left behind. Brilliant first photo with all those Consolidated PBY Catalina flying boats in the Harbour

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  2. The whole story of Argentia is a new one to me.

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  3. Thanks for the Argentia information ... I knew none of that. We tried to leave NFL on the Argentia ferry, but were told to scurry on west to Port aux Basques because of "ferry breakdowns." The system was a mess. That sent us reeling!
    http://intrepid-decrepit-travelers.blogspot.com/2010/08/wed-august-4th.html

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