Early Navigational Aids

Charlottetown Harbour Harper's 1870

Charlottetown Harbour
Harper’s Magazine, 1878

The engraving (left) shows ships and boats of all kinds in the busy Charlottetown Harbour. Ships from all over the world sailed in and out of the our waters, carrying supplies, people, livestock, mail and all manner of commodities on a daily basis. Ships and boats would also sail to and from communities along the Hillsborough (East) River, North (Yorke) River, the West (Elliott) River or out in the Hillsborough Bay in order to transport people, animals and  goods to and from the City. A good pilot was often necessary for those unfamiliar with the area.

Charlottetown Waterfront from St. Dunstan's Spire, 1888 PARO Acc2301/74

Charlottetown Waterfront from St. Dunstan’s Spire, c. 1900
PARO Acc2301/74

A wide variety of navigational aids were used in the early days of the colony before lighthouses and range lights were constructed. Buoys and landmarks, such as church steeples, allowed mariners to understand where they were and how to proceed.  The Kirk of St. James and St. Dunstan’s Basilica (right) spires were used frequently in charts and sailing directions. Instruments such as sextants, chronometers as well as charts, almanacs and sailing directions were all vital components in sea travel prior to global positioning systems.


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