Something that irks many New Brunswickers, and especially those from Saint John, is when the city name is misspelled or mispronounced. Keep these helpful hints in mind:
- First, the city's name is spelled Saint John, not "St. John";
- Second, avoid pronouncing the city's name as "St. John's" (as Prince Charles once did in a speech he gave on a visit to the city after his marriage to Lady Diana - many in the crowd were quick to correct him in mid-speech !). "St. John's" is the capital city of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. The exception, of course, is if you're referring to something in the possessive sense, as in, "Saint John's zoo is called the Cherry Brook Zoo and Vanished Kingdom Park";
- Third, the spelling "St. John" should only be used when referring to either the County of St. John, or the St. John River, both of which are in New Brunswick.
Situated on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean and with North America's most heavily forested province or state at it's back, Saint John rose to fame in the 1800s as one of the busiest ports and shipbuilding cities in the world. As I strolled from the Delta hotel toward the NB Museum at Market Square, I came across a small memorial to the most famous ship ever built there - the 'Marco Polo'.
She was launched in 1851, a large ship for the port, with three decks and a length of 184 feet (56-m). In fact, she was so large that she grounded twice in the mud-flats of the harbour (there is a 28-foot tidal range here remember!). Although she was eventually refloated with no apparant damage, it is surmised that her keel may have been twisted by these incidents because, for some reason, she could sail like the wind! Her very first voyage to Liverpool, England with a cargo of lumber took only 15 days. However, she really made her name as 'the fastest ship in the world' when she was converted to a passenger ship in 1852 by the Black Ball Line and sailed from Liverpool for Melbourne, Australia. Her run of 76 days outbound, 21 days in port and 76 days (5 months 21 days total) back to Liverpool was the first time a ship had made this trip to the other side of the world and back in less than 6 months. However, the glory days of the Marco Polo ended 15 years later when she was converted to a freighter in 1867. The end came in 1883, when she was 32 years old, as a result of a leak while sailing through Canada's Gulf of St. Lawrence to Quebec. She had to be beached on the shores of Prince Edward Island and was subsequently wrecked by a storm before she could be refloated.
Shipbuilding in Saint John finally came to an end in June, 2003 when the last remaining yard was closed down following the failure to secure any further major contracts after completion of the construction of the Royal Canadian Navy's new 'Halifax-class' frigates.