March 31, 1914
The last sighting of the sealing vessel was made by the crew of the coastal steamer SS Portia, passing the Southern Cross near Cape Pine, off the southern Avalon Peninsula. Although the Portia was headed for St. Mary’s Bay to wait out a worsening blizzard, the Southern Cross, low in the water with its large cargo of seal pelts, seemed headed for Cape Race. The steamer was not seen again, and because no wireless equipment was on board, communication with other vessels was impossible.
The Captain of the S.S. Portia, Captain Connors did have the Marconi wireless and on spotting the Southern Cross wired the owners of the vessel Messrs Bowring Brothers stating:
“Passed the Southern Cross, 5 miles W.N.W. of Cape Pine, at 11:00 a.m. yesterday (March 31, 1914) . It is supposed that she ran into St. Mary’s Bay and harbored at North Harbor.”
Captain George Clarke of the Southern Cross did not run into St. Mary’s Bay as supposed it is likely he pressed through the storm because he was anxious for the recognition and the small prize traditionally awarded to the first arrival back from the seal hunt.
The theory is that in the height of the storm the ship’s heavy cargo may have shifted capsizing the steamer.
Whatever the cause, the sinking of the Southern Cross resulted in more deaths than any other single disaster in Newfoundland and Labrador sealing history.
Recommended Archival Collection: At the Rooms Provincial Archives see GN 121 this collection consists of the evidence taken before the Commission of Enquiry regarding the S.S. Newfoundland. The collection includes the Sealers Crew Agreement and the evidence given by the surviving members of the crew. Evidence entered concerning the loss of the SS Southern Cross is also included on this collection.
Recommended Reading: PERISHED by Jenny Higgins, Boulder Press, St. John’s. (2014) offers unique, illustrative look at the 1914 sealing disaster through pull-out facsimile archival documents.
Home from the Sea Memorial, Elliston: Learn more about “Home from The Sea, Sealers Memorial” in Elliston, Trinity Bay http://www.homefromthesea.ca/