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1959: Queen and Eisenhower open seaway
The Queen and US President Dwight D Eisenhower have inaugurated the 2,300-mile St Lawrence Seaway in Canada that links the Atlantic with the Great Lakes in North America.

Crowds cheered and waved flags, church bells rang out, sirens wailed and bands played as the Royal Yacht Britannia began the first leg of the journey from Montreal harbour to the Atlantic Ocean.

On board were the Queen, representing Canada, and President Eisenhower who could be seen chatting together on deck and waving to the crowds.

Balloons and fireworks were released when the ship's bow passed a symbolic gate at St Lambert Lock made of old timbers from the lock of the Lachine canal which was built to bypass the Lachine rapids. The seaway takes a different route avoiding the rapids and rendering the Lachine canal obsolete.

Then all the whistles and sirens of ships in Montreal harbour went off.

'In love with the Queen'

At one point an American congressman called to the president from the lock side: "We have all fallen in love with the Queen, Ike!"

Earlier, the Queen as head of the Commonwealth welcomed President Eisenhower to Canada at Montreal airport.

After inspecting a Royal Canadian Air Force guard of honour they took an open-top car to the St Lawrence River.

There the two heads of state were each presented with a commemorative book with the names of the men who built the seaway.

The Queen then made a speech welcoming the president and his wife to Canada to mark the inauguration of a "great joint enterprise between our two countries".

She acknowledged the project would open up the centre of America to world trade and enhance Canadian commerce in the process.

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Watch/Listen
Royal Yacht Britannia
The Queen and President were on the Royal Yacht Britannia for the opening ceremony

Footage of the Queen and Eisenhower (mute)



In Context
The ambitious joint project between Canada and the USA cost $470m to build of which 336.2m was paid by Canada and $133.8m by the US.

Construction began in 1954 after 250 years of planning and setbacks, dating back to French attempts to bypass rapids near Montreal with a canal in the 17th century.

About 100 square miles (259 sq km) were flooded and at least 6,500 people resettled before the seaway was completed in April 1959.

By the end of the year, the massive system of canals, locks and dredged waterways had seen more than 6,500 ships pass through.

On average the St Lawrence Seaway handles 50 million tons of cargo, mainly grain, iron ore, coal and steel.

The Queen is still Canada's head of state represented by the governor-general. In 1982 Canada adopted a new constitution free from the United Kingdom.

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