November 19, 1915
On November 20, 1915 The St. John’s newspaper The Evening Telegram reported:
“Another member of our steel sealing fleet the Beothic went out through the narrows last evening (November 19, 1915) never to return again. She proceeds via New York to Archangel, (Arkhangelsk) Russia. The purchase price of the ship was $210,000.”
The 240.4 foot Beothic was well known and loved in Newfoundland , built by D & W Henderson Limited Glasgow, Scotland and launched in 1909 she was the property of the Job Brothers of St. John’s.
Steel steamers were introduced to the seal fishery in 1906; by 1914, Newfoundland had “the finest fleet of Sealers and Ice-Breakers in the World.” The annual four to six-week hunt could not support such expensive steamers.
With the outbreak of war in 1914 Russia was desperate for steel hull l ships to use as icebreakers to keep White Sea and other Russian ports open for munition ships from Britain. In addition to negotiating for the purchase of the Beothic the Russians were also negotiating with other merchant families in St. John’s for the purchase of other steel hull sealing vessels.
The first ships sold were Reid Newfoundland Company’s freight and passenger steamers Lintrose and Bruce, both of which had been employed on the run between North Sydney and Port aux Basques. By the spring of 1916, five other vessels had been sold to the Russian Admiralty: A.J. Harvey’s icebreakers Bellaventure, Bonaventure, and Adventure; and Baine Johnson’s he Clyde.
On arrival in Russia, the Newfoundland sealing steamer the Beothic was fitted with steam engines and was renamed after Russian Captain and Polar explorer Georgy Yakovlevich Sedov.
This icebreaker became famous as the first Soviet drifting ice station.
In the summer of 1937 the Beothic (renamed the Sedov) and the Bruce (renamed the Malygin) while researching the ice conditions, became trapped by sea ice and drifted helplessly.
Owing to persistent bad weather conditions, part of the stranded crew and some of the scientists could only be rescued in April 1938. The Sedov, had to be left to drift in the ice and was transformed into a scientific polar station.
The Sedov kept drifting northwards in the ice towards the Pole. The scientists aboard took astronomical measurements, made electromagnetic observations, as well as depth measurements by drilling the thick polar ice during their 812-day stay aboard the Sedov.
Eventually, in January 1940, she was rescued and brought into the harbour at Murmansk, Russia.
The former Newfoundland sealing vessel was immortalized by the Russian government in 1977 with the creation of a postage stamp to celebrate the work on the first scientific polar station.
The ship was scrapped at Hamburg, Germany in 1968.
The Newfoundland icebreaking steamer Bruce (Malygin) is also celebrated on a Russian postage stamp. She was the first Soviet tourist cruise to the Arctic but that is a story for another day.
Recommended Archival Collection: At the Rooms Provincial Archives, VA 44: The James St. Pierre Knight fonds. This photograph album documents a trip by James St. P. Knight as medical officer on board the Job Brothers sealing steamer Beothic under Master George Barbour. The album is comprised of 41 photographs (b&w) depicting the activities of the sealers on board the SS Beothic and at the ice fields in 1911. The album also includes Knight’s berth ticket to the sealing hunt.
Recommended Reading: Chafe, Levi George. Chafe’s Sealing Book: A History of the Newfoundland Sealfishery from the Earliest Available Records Down to and Including the Voyage of 1923. Ed. H. M. Mosdell. St. John’s: The Trade Printers and Publishers Ltd., 1923.
Recommended Reading: Mike O’Brien, “Producers versus Profiteers: The Politics of Class in Newfoundland during the First World War,” Acadiensis XXXX, no. 1 (Winter/Spring 2011): 45-69.
NOTE: Not to be confused with The steamship “Beothic,” formerly named the “Lake Como”, built in Lorain, Ohio, USA in 1918 . The Neptune Steamship Co., Ltd. acquired the vessel and registered it at St. John’s, Newfoundland in 1925. The vessel was re-registered the following year to the Job’s Seal Fishery Co., Ltd., also of St. John’s. The vessel is also well known for its role in the rescue of survivors from the S.S. “Viking” which exploded off Horse Islands, Bonavista Bay, Newfoundland, March 16, 1931. The “Beothic” was first on the scene, and helped to transfer surviving crew members to other ships