Discovering Red Cliff’s colourful past

Susan
Susan Flanagan
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Only remnants of what was once a bustling radar station

The remains of the radar tower at Red Cliff, Logy Bay. — Photos by Susan Flanagan/Special to The Telegram

Last weekend, the children and I brought some Ontarians out to Red Cliff. It was a beautiful day — pure paradise for the paint-ballers who hang out there in their camouflage gear.

I explained to my CFA friends how Red Cliff was the site of a coastal artillery base during the Second World War.

After we bummed around the remains of an antenna tower painted with Cookie Monster, my daughter descended an untrustworthy ladder through a hatch in the top of the concrete room into the small subterranean gun pit.

Then we walked the beautiful East Coast Trail Cobbler Path past the dozen or so building remains.

My friends asked questions and I quickly realized there was more to Red Cliff than a coastal gun fortification. Sizing up the complexity of the buildings, it seemed people had to have lived out here. But were they Canadians or Americans, and what were they doing? I had no clue.  Research was in order.

The only Red Cliff in the “Encyclopedia of Newfoundland” was in Bonavista Bay.

So I checked my faithful Google friend and was directed to the Outer Cove/Logy Bay website (http://outercove.newfoundland.ws/Red_Cliff_History.asp) which incorporates information from the late Ren L’Ecuyer’s Pinetree Line website (http://lighthousememories.ca/winhttrack_website_copier/www.pinetreeline.org).

I learned that the buildings were part of Site N 27 of the Pinetree Line radar site series which stretched between Tofino on Vancouver Island and Logy Bay in Newfoundland.

Then when I looked under “radar” in the “Encyclopedia of Newfoundland” I learned that during the Second World War several radar stations were set up in Newfoundland and Labrador to help detect enemy aircraft. Radar (an acronym for radio detecting and ranging) could determine the location, speed and direction of enemy planes.

The first radar station set up in 1942 on Fogo Island had a 300-mile detection range and was completely self-contained, with its own power, water, telephone, sewage system and fuel storage. The locals were told it was a weather station. I’m pretty sure they must have known it was something more, as the radar building was surrounded by barbed wire, guard dogs and mounted machine guns.

Regardless of what locals thought, by the end of the Second World War all the radar stations in Newfoundland were closed and the sites reverted to the Newfoundland government.

Then the Cold War began and people in the know determined that radar sites were still needed in Canada and Newfoundland to detect potential air attacks by the Russians.

Canada and the United States agreed to work together once again to defend the North American continent. Northern Newfoundland was primarily the responsibility of the United States — under the North East Air Command (NEAC). That’s why the United States air force manned a radar station at Red Cliff, Logy Bay, from 1953-61.

Like Fogo and the other radar stations used during the war, Red Cliff was self-contained — a little oasis complete with “barracks, shops, warehouses, dining halls, recreational areas as well as the operations centre,” according to the website.

You have to keep in mind that this oasis was located on top of a cliff which, for much of the year, was subject to freezing winds, snow and rain hammering down on the men.

Thank goodness, according to the Pinetree site, there were buses to bring the men to dances and movies at Fort Pepperrell, which served as the headquarters for all eight of the Newfoundland Pinetree Line radar stations. Between 50 and 100 airmen worked at each site, plus countless civilians who did maintenance.

The employment boom was short-lived, however, as by 1960 the technology used on the sites was outdated and by 1961 the Red Cliff site was one of the first to close.

“At the time that Red Cliff was phased out in October 1961, there were 140 military and 106 civilians at this location,” say Ren L’Ecuyer and Robert Wilder on the Pinetree Line website.

If you head out to Red Cliff this fall, I strongly encourage you to look at the photos on the Pinetree Line site.

You’ll see exactly what they looked like back in 1961 when they were decommissioned. The coolest is a photo of the radar tower with its big white bulb on top. Now it’s just a concrete octagon. I tried to get permission to reproduce the photos here, but after emails to the site, trips to The Rooms archives and the Arts and Culture library, I had no luck.

When it came time to leave Red Cliff, the children couldn’t tear themselves away from a lone graffiti artist who was about to leave his mark. He was a lovely young man, talented and patient with the children’s questions. I was impressed when they asked him about old paint cans lying around. He said he would never litter and always packed out whatever he packed in.

A few tips before you go. When you park at the end of Red Cliff Road, if you continue walking along the road past the barricade to the south (right), you’ll come to the radar tower remains first. Then if you walk out towards the coast and follow the Cobbler Path to the north, you’ll come to the old coastal gun battery. You won’t have to come back the way you came, as a path will bring you back to Red Cliff Road.

One last hint: bring a flashlight so you can better see inside some of the dark rooms.

 

Susan can be reached at susan@48degrees.ca

Book club feedback

Miriam writes: “Good afternoon Susan — I enjoy your columns very much!  However in your recent item, ‘My pick for book club,’ you recommend Lionel Shriver’s ‘The Post-Birthday World’ and mention ‘his first chapter.’  Lionel Shriver is a woman!  Her books (which include ‘We Have to Talk About Kevin,’ made into the successful movie of the same name) are usually written from a woman’s viewpoint. In my book groups — they are three — a member always looks up the author.  It definitely adds to the discussion.”

      

Lance Armstrong feedback

(Susan’s note: Lance Armstrong is not my hero. I don’t write the headlines.)

Stuart writes: “I loved your article today about Lance. … Very much my thoughts, but you said it far more eloquently than I could. If I could take steroids and do so much good for the world, sign me up.”

Jeff writes: “I am reading Tyler Hamilton’s book now, ‘The Secret Race.’  I can’t put it down.  And I can appreciate the pressure all these riders were under — either dope or go home was their reality. There is a generation of drug-assisted performances out there … from Ben Johnson and Carl Lewis (who was never caught, but had to be on something) to the XC skiers and the cyclists.”

Dave writes: “This article summarizes my opinion on the whole affair perfectly. He is seemingly the only one being punished for what the vast majority (maybe the whole) were up to.”

Phillip writes: “Ditto to all that has been said. I hope Lance knows that not all of us are throwing him under the bus. I don’t care how many sport enhancing supplements/drugs that you take; it takes a hell of a lot more than that to even participate in the TDF, let alone win 7 of them. You’re still a champ Lance. And I haven’t even mentioned his accomplishments with cancer. Keep your head high. But it might be a good idea to acknowledge what we all know anyway.”

James writes: “Cracking article Susan!”

David writes: “The worst thing Armstrong did was ruin several honest people’s careers and lives. He is scum, and any remaining supporters are pathetic, weak-minded fools.”

wtf writes: “I could only read about a third of this column and that was all I could stomach. You’re not naive, you’re a fool. If the allegations are true, and it seems they are, then Armstrong is not a scapegoat but a cheat. And a greedy cheat at that to steal seven championships. He didn’t just steal championships, he stole everything that came with those championships — the endorsements, the ability of the winner to promote their charities, etc. Nobody cares if he’s arrogant, that’s a given for anyone at the top of their field. Your pathetic attempt to compare him to Clinton is laughable. Clinton lied about something that had nothing to do with him becoming president or the duties of the office. Armstrong’s lies helped him become champion, over and over. It’s said he’s bullied, threatened and sued anyone who might expose his cheating. That’s more than being arrogant. “

Jogn writes: “Wtf, You should really looking into doping in sport more if you really think Lance Armstrong is a cheat. I hate to break it to you but he was just levelling the playing field. Lance Armstrong is one of the most tested athletes, if not the most tested athlete in history. Do you actually think if it was that easy for him to piss negative so many times no one else was doing it too? Besides that, take a look at how many people around him were using drugs. In the 2008 Tour de France 8 out of 10 of the top finishers tested positive.”

Barry writes: “I also couldn’t finish this article. If these allegations are true then the man is a liar, a cheat and a thief. How can society look up to him as any kind of hero? His ill-gotten fame came about because he has no honour. And one would have to think his own cancer could have been triggered by all the chemicals he was pumping into his own body. And Lance is now showing the world his true arrogant self by not even coming clean about the whole sorry affair.”

Lori writes: “If only he’d admit to some level of guilt! It would make a number of his critics feel a bit better. And there is a *big* difference between Gatorade and blood doping or steroids. Yes, it’s a dirty sport. Yes, there’s likely a fair amount of performance enhancing drug use done in all sports, but it has to stop somewhere. There have to be lines drawn, and hopefully this is the first in a series of steps to do just that.”

Really writes: “Are you living in a drug induced world? This man used drugs and fraud to win and then lied about it over and over. The 19 witnesses on his team — that also used — are not telling the truth and he is. … Yeah, right. What are you saying to the youth — it is alright to use drugs and even if caught you are still a really good sports hero. Sorry, just another arrogant, rich by deception druggie who happened to beat cancer (and that is good).”

David writes: “Message: if you an immoral, cheating, sociopathic SOB, hopefully you’re also cunning enough to take up a laudable cause like cancer as an insurance policy. It won’t fool many, but if you ever need it, even a flimsy paddle in a lifeboat is better than none.”

Paul writes: “All the well-known U.S. marathons follow the protocols of the USADA (Anti Doping Agency). So if you are found cheating by doping, (you’re out of) that event. (Lance) was tested due to the biking but the time frames overlapped. So in N.Y. (Boston, and Chicago as well) are accepting the testing by USADA and discounting, plus disallowing Lance for past and future races (at least near future). He was banned from Chicago and not allowed to run New York next week.”

Pete writes: “I too agree with Susan. I’ve been into the sport and have seen so many people, even on national level, dope. The use of EPD in cycling is rampant. There are teenager cyclists taking EPD in some cases without thinking of the effects of these on their young bodies. It is absolutely pathetic on the part of the public and the media outlets to bring the man to its public peril where every single fact shouts widespread use of EPD.

“Lance was never my hero, but now he is. Why? Because of him the sport may actually get cleaned from EPD for at least a decade. Because of him, we are witnessing the application of double standards in the rules of law applicable to sport offences.

“I have stopped watching all major events organized by UCI since (Alex) Rasmussen was deliberately removed and replaced by a known drug cheater, both directly and indirectly evidenced. I hate to say it, but because of people with such level of arrogance we are able to address the underlying issues. And yet, the UCI bosses are still confident they have done nothing wrong.”

 

George Bush feedback:

Donald writes: “Your reference to George Bush Senior in Labrador does not (jibe) with the story I read in the media at the time. According to Craig Dobbin’s account, George Bush stepped into a bog hole and was up to his armpits. He could not get out. The ladies in the party alerted the Secret Service, who pulled the president out. Craig Dobbin reported that Bush was held in with some suction and it took two men to lift Bush out.”

 

Dishes feedback

Marie-Beth writes: “I have inherited from my mother-in-law two conversation pieces.

“No. 1:  a cup and saucer with the cup having a moustache protector when a guy would be drinking tea or coffee; just in time for all the Movember participants!

“No. 2 :  a small plate bearing the image of the abdicating King Edward VIII (1936), with the inscription  God Bless Our King, Edward VIII, ‘Rex Imperator.’”

Sally in Spaniard’s Bay writes: Your column Oct. 16 which mentioned (Duralex drinking) glasses, caused me to go to my cupboard and look at the ones I had.  I didn’t realize they came from France! I still have four 8-ounce glasses and three  12-ounce glasses after 46 years of continual use! I don’t think they ever broke. An excellent product, right? Thanks again for your delightful columns which I enjoy immensely.”

Organizations: Google, North East Air Command, North American Gatorade Anti Doping Agency Secret Service

Geographic location: Red Cliff Road, Newfoundland and Labrador, Logy Bay United States Tofino Vancouver Island Newfoundland.Then Fogo Island Canada Northern Newfoundland Cobbler Path New York Chicago Boston France

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Recent comments

  • Ken O'Brien
    January 29, 2013 - 21:46

    Thanks for this great article on a site that is fading from memory as well as fading in reality. It is an excellent link to the Cold War and Newfoundland's role in it. It's a shame that this is not developed as a tourist site with historical storyboards and some signage. As it is, one can no longer drive up there, but the walk is worth it. Our late father worked at the base at Fort Pepperrell (Pleasantville) and used to take us Up to Red Cliff on Subdays, decades later, to have a picnic, walk around, and explore the old buildings and bunkers. Every so often a plane would fly overhead on its way to a landing at the airport. It must have been a grand place in the summer and terrible in the winter for those stationed there. Again, thanks for the article.

  • Joey
    November 06, 2012 - 19:56

    Nothing like doing a random google search and pretending that it is research! Glad we cleared up the story about Red Cliff without any actual fact checking.

  • John in Whitbourne
    November 06, 2012 - 07:35

    As a child, I lived on a Pinetree Line station (RCAF Station Holberg) in the period that Red Cliff was closed. It was closed because of the cost of upgrading to the laterst radars. It wasn't worth spending four million dollars (or so) to upgrade a site that could only see fifty miles further towards Iceland than Gander. The Gander site is still in operation as part of the North Warning System. The air defence system included the US Navy radar planes from Argentia which patrolled between St John's and the Azores on 12 hour missions. There were four radar picket ships on the surface supporting them. Fighters from Stephenville performed the actual air intercepts when called upon by controllers at the radar station.