At a time when the food supply of Great Britain must be drawn almost solely from her colonial possessions and the United States and Argentina, when her very national existence depends on the sea lanes to that food supply being kept open—a route which shortens the distance to that food supply by from one thousand five hundred to three thousand miles becomes doubly interesting.
Take a mental look at the contour of North America! All the big export harbors of the Atlantic Coast are situated at the broadest bulge of the continent—Halifax, St. John, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore are all where the distance across the continent from the grain fields is widest. That means a long land haul.
Take another look at the map—this time at a revolving globe! Any schoolboy knows that a circle round a top is shorter at the ends than around its middle. The same of the earth. East and west distances are shorter the nearer you are to the Pole, the farther you are from the Equator.
To England from Eastern Asia by Suez is fourteen to eighteen thousand miles. To England from Asia by San Francisco is eleven thousand miles, by Seattle ten thousand miles, by Prince Rupert and Hudson Bay seven to eight thousand miles—representing a saving by the northern route of almost half round the world.
Another point—take a compass! Stick the needle on Hudson Bay and swing the leg down round New York and up through the wheat plains of the Northwest. Draw lines to the center of your circle—to your amazement, you find the lines from the wheat plains to New York are twice and thrice as long as the lines from the wheat plains to Hudson Bay. In other words, Mr. Hill’s wheat empire is one thousand miles nearer tidewater to Hudson Bay than to New York. The three prairie provinces of Northwestern Canada are from four hundred (for Manitoba) to eight hundred miles (for Alberta) distant from ocean front on Hudson Bay. They are from one thousand two hundred to two thousand four hundred miles distant from tidewater at Montreal and New York and Philadelphia.
That is—if land rates were the same as water rates—the Hudson Bay route to Europe would cut rates to England from the Orient by half, and from the wheat plains by the difference between one thousand two hundred miles and four hundred, and two thousand four hundred miles and eight hundred. But land rates are not water rates. From Alberta to the Great Lakes is roughly one thousand two hundred miles. From the Great Lakes to tidewater is roughly another one thousand two hundred miles—either by way of Chicago-Buffalo, or Lake Superior-Montreal. For the one thousand two hundred miles from Alberta to the Great Lakes, grain shippers at time of writing pay a rate of twenty-two to twenty-five cents a bushel. For the one thousand two hundred miles from the head of the Lakes to Buffalo, the rate is three cents, from the head of the Lakes to Montreal five to six cents. In other words, the rate by land is just five to eight times higher than the rate by water.