Tag Archives: disaster

The Ocean Ranger

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

Photo Credit:

The Rooms Provincial Archives : A-41-36; Ocean Ranger, Lost February 15, 1982

On February 15, 1982 at 0052 hours local time, a MAYDAY call was sent out from the Ocean Ranger, noting a severe list to the port side of the rig and requesting immediate assistance. This was the first communication from the Ocean Ranger identifying a major problem.

At 0130 hours local time, the Ocean Ranger transmitted its last message:

 ‘There will be no further radio communications from the Ocean Ranger. We are going to lifeboat stations’.

Shortly thereafter, in the middle of the night and in the midst of atrocious winter weather, the crew abandoned the rig.

All 84 crewmembers died.  56 were Newfoundlanders. Over the next four days search teams were only able to recover 22 bodies, 2 lifeboats, and 6 life rafts.

Families across Newfoundland and Labrador,  struggled to cope with the loss. In every community in the province in every church, in every school people gathered to find comfort.  At a crowded ecumenical service at the historic Basilica  Cathedral  in St. John’s, friends and relatives attended a memorial service to pay tribute and to search for answers.  The Catholic Archbishop of the province surrounded by clergy from all churches used the occasion to call on both the federal and provincial governments to establish “a joint enquiry into the terrible accident”.

Recommended Archival Collection: Two new ‘Ocean Ranger” collections are now held at The Rooms.  The David Boutcher Collection features photographs taken by David on the Ocean Ranger in 1982.  Many of the photographs feature friends and fellow crew members.  David died on the Ocean Ranger.   Also available is the Lloyd Major Collection, Lloyd was a medic on the Ocean Ranger, his 52 photographs feature individuals who worked on “The Rig”  and structural features of The Rig.

Note: Many of the individuals in these photographs have not been identified and we would welcome the assistance  of families and friends  of the victims to help us in this process.

Rig: Voices from the Ocean Ranger Disaster

Date: February 14, 15 and 16, 2017  Time: 7:00pm – 8:00pm Cost: $30, 10% discount for Rooms members

35 years ago, the Ocean Ranger oil rig sank in severe weather, taking 84 of its crew to the bottom of the sea. Based on the book by Mike Heffernan, this play brings to life the real memories of the victims’ families and the people who risked their own lives trying to help those on board.  Call 709-757-8090 for tickets or email information@therooms.ca

– See more at: https://www.therooms.ca/programs-events/for-adults/special-events/rig-voices-from-the-ocean-ranger-disaster#sthash.VlpocS2D.dpuf

Recommended Book (Fiction): Moore, Lisa .  February. House of Anansi Press (2010).  February is a fictional exploration of the impact on one family of the 1982 sinking of the oil rig Ocean Ranger.

Recommended Book: (Non Fiction):  Heffernan, Mike (2009). Rig: An Oral History of the Ocean Ranger Disaster, Creative Publishers, St. John’s.  This is an illustrated collection of first-person accounts from former rig workers, victims’ families, government officials, media, and search and rescue crews.

Website: Royal Commission on the Ocean Ranger Marine Disaster: http://www.heritage.nf.ca/law/or_response.html

 

Tidal wave reached the Burin Peninsula

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November 18, 1929

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: A86-90; Eastern Cove Pond, Lord’s Cove. The Rennie home. Sarah Rennie and three of her children were found drowned in the kitchen. Survivor Maggie Rennie was found in her bed on the second floor

On November 18, 1929, an earthquake measuring 7.2 on the Richter scale out in the Atlantic Ocean on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland created a tidal wave ( (tsunami).  When the ground shook at 5:02 p.m., some thought there had been an explosion in the mines or on a distant vessel. Yet nothing immediately followed the violent tremor so people resumed their previous activities.

Traveling at a speed of 140 kilometers per hour, the tidal wave reached the Burin Peninsula of Newfoundland  at 7:00 p.m.

Detailed accounts of the devastation were made known on November 23 when a deputation from Burin consisting of Hon. G. A. Bartlett, Rev. Fr. James  Miller, and Capt. W.H. Hollett traveled to St. John’s to meet  with the Executive Government.

Father Miller (the Parish Priest of St. Patrick’s Parish, Burin from 1925 -1934) spoke to a reporter from the “Evening Telegram”  (the St. John’s daily newspaper) and told him of the distress and needs of the people in the stricken area.

Father Miller told the reporter that the fishermen were hit hardest, not by the loss of their own fishing gear, boats and stages, but by the fact that in many cases the whole community depended on one or two firms, now so badly shattered that it was impossible.

Several times during the conversation with The Telegram reporter Father Miller referred to heroic rescues by the local fishermen. In the darkness, with chaos everywhere, they calmly set about their work – climbed floating houses, searched amongst debris, and rescued the women and children.

“They (the fishermen) were most heroic, but they least suspect it” Father Miller told the Telegram.

This giant sea wave claimed a total of 28 lives – 27 drowned on the Burin peninsula and a young girl never recovered from her injuries and died in 1933. This represents Canada’s largest documented loss of life directly related to an earthquake.

At Port aux Bras a fisherman saw his home being swept away. He tried to save his wife and family but was blocked by another floating house. He was helpless as his imprisoned family whirled into darkness. His house was pulled out to sea faster than a boat could steam.

Mr. Ern Cheeseman of Port au Bras on the Burin peninsula in a letter to his brother Jack a few days after the tsunami wrote:

You could hear the poor humans who were caught, screaming, women and men praying out loud. Oh God, Jack, it was terrible Excuse this scribble but we are not over the shock yet. Every move one hears one jumps expecting the same to happen again.”

The Newfoundland government sent ships with doctors and supplies. Canada was the largest foreign donor donating $35,000 individual Newfoundlanders raised more than $200,000 to help their countrymen.

Apart from the Burin tsunami, two others have been reported, at Bonavista in 1755 as a result of the Lisbon earthquake, and St. Shott’s in June 1864. These caused damage, but no reported loss of life.

Recommended Archival Collection: At The Rooms Provincial Archives take some time to read MG 636: South Coast Disaster Relief Committee Report consists of a list of losses by settlement, reports, telegrams, correspondence, minutes of meetings; regarding the tidal wave and earthquake disaster on the Burin Peninsula, 1929. The collection also includes a report of the South Coast Disaster Committee, 1931.

Recommended Archival Collection: Search the Rooms  online database for descriptions of our archival records and view thousands of digital photographs. https://www.therooms.ca/collections-research/our-collections  Take some time to look at the Tidal Wave photographs in the collection of the Rooms Provincial Archives.  A series consists of ten postcards documenting the damage to Burin area during a tidal wave (tsunami) along the South Coast of Newfoundland, Nov. 1929. The photographs were taken by Rev. James Anthony Miller, Roman Catholic priest, Burin. Miller’s film was developed by S.H. Parsons & Sons. The photographs were reproduced as postcards by Parsons. The photographs were also published in the New York Times (8 Dec. 1929).

Recommended Reading: Hanrahan, Maura. Tsunami: The Newfoundland Tidal Wave Disaster.St. John’s: Flanker Press, 2004.

“Representing himself to be another …”

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“Representing himself to be another … Philip Dohey and Charles Foley”

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: LS 51; S.S. Bellaventure crew bringing bodies and survivors of the S.S. Newfoundland Sealing Disaster aboard ship.

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: LS 51; S.S. Bellaventure crew bringing bodies and survivors of the S.S. Newfoundland Sealing Disaster aboard ship.

One of the men that died in the Sealing Disaster of 1914 was Charles Foley of St. Bride’s, Placentia Bay.  The irony was that Charles Foley did not have a berth on the S.S. Newfoundland; his name is NOT listed in the Sealers Crew Agreement.

The oral tradition in St. Bride’s was that Philip Dohey was one of the crew on the S.S. Newfoundland but at the last minute gave his berth to his friend Charles Foley. This “personating or representing himself to be another” was frowned upon, so much so that the Agreement signed between Captain Wesley Kean of the S.S.  Newfoundland and Philip Dohey on March 4, 1914 read:

 “If any man should sign a false name not his own and shall proceed in the said vessel personating or representing himself to be another, it shall be the option of the masters or suppliers to withhold from him any share of the voyage.”

His determination to find a berth on the S.S. Newfoundland to the extent that he would “represent himself to be another’ may have been a commentary on the economy of the day. The seal fishery represented the only source of cash income that would transition their families from the long winter into the approaching summer fishery.

Between March 31 and April 2, 1914 disaster struck. The men of the S.S. Newfoundland found themselves on the ice, stranded in a blinding snowstorm with freezing temperatures. In the 54 hours they were stranded, many died.

The local paper the Evening Telegram in St. John’s reported in April 1914 about the bodies being removed from one of the rescue vessel, the S.S. Bellaventure that had pulled into St. John’s Harbour.

 “The vision sent a shudder through the crowd. The bodies had been laid there just as they were brought in from the ice, many of them with limbs contracted and drawn up in postures which the cold had brought about.”

The task of identifying the 69 dead and 8 missing men was given to Dr. Alexander Campbell, the port doctor in St. John’s. Using the Sealers Agreement register, Dr. Campbell declared crew member #78; Philip Dohey missing.

It was not until April 30, 1914 that authorities confirmed that crew #78 was in fact not Philip Dohey but Charles Foley.

Crew #78 was the last of the 78 men declared dead.

Sealers Agreement, Philip Dohey #78

Sealers Agreement, Philip Dohey #78

Officially the Sealers Crew Agreement, now  held at the Rooms Provincial Archives continues to read, Philip Dohey missing.

Philip  is not known to have spoken about giving up his berth on the S.S. Newfoundland to his friend. No doubt he pondered what fate had been dealt to him.

Charles Foley is not in the official register but he is  remembered at the “Home from the Sea, Sealers Memorial” in Elliston, Trinity Bay where all those who lost their lives prosecuting the seal fishery in the spring of 1914 are engraved on a stone tablet.

 

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 Exhibit:  The National Film Board’s documentary 54 Hours written by Michael Crummey, using animation, survivor testimony and archival footage. You can also view the short film from your own home at https://www.nfb.ca/film/54_hours

Crew List: In the days and months following the loss of the S.S. Southern Cross and the tragedy of the loss of the men of the S.S. Newfoundland there was much confusion about the names and the number of men that did die. You will find the definitive list of all those that did die as well as the survivors at http://www.homefromthesea.ca/

Recommended Reading:  PERISHED by Jenny Higgins (2014) offers unique, illustrative look at the 1914 sealing disaster through pull-out facsimile archival documents.  More than 200 rarely seen archival photos and documents illustrate this amazing book.

Burin Tsunami

ARCHIVAL MOMENT
November 18, 1929

“You could hear the poor humans who were caught, screaming … Oh God, Jack, it was terrible…”

On November 18, 1929 at 5:02 pm Newfoundland time, a major earthquake occurred approximately 250 km south of Newfoundland along the southern edge of the Grand Banks. This magnitude 7.2 tremor was felt as far away as New York and Montreal.

Traveling at a speed of 140 kilometers per hour, the tidal wave reached the Burin Peninsula at 7:00 p.m. The tsunami struck the southern end of the Burin Peninsula as three main pulses, causing local sea levels to rise between 2 and 7 metres. At the heads of several of the long narrow bays on the Burin Peninsula the momentum of the tsunami carried water as high as 13 metres.

This giant sea wave claimed a total of 28 lives – 27 drowned on the Burin peninsula and a young girl never recovered from her injuries and died in 1933. This represents Canada’s largest documented loss of life directly related to an earthquake.

At Port aux Bras a fisherman saw his home being swept away. He tried to save his wife and family but was blocked by another floating house. He was helpless as his imprisoned family whirled into darkness. His house was pulled out to sea faster than a boat could steam.

Mr. Ern Cheeseman of Port au Bras on the Burin peninsula in a letter to his brother Jack a few days after the tsunami wrote: “You could hear the poor humans who were caught, screaming, women and men praying out loud. Oh God, Jack, it was terrible… Excuse this scribble but we are not over the shock yet. Every move one hears one jumps expecting the same to happen again.”

The Newfoundland government sent ships with doctors and supplies. Canada was the largest foreign donor donating $35,000 individual Newfoundlanders raised more than $200,000 to help their countrymen.

Apart from the Burin tsunami, two others have been reported, at Bonavista in 1755 as a result of the Lisbon earthquake, and St. Shott’s in June 1864. These caused damage, but no reported loss of life.

Recommended Archival Collection: At The Rooms Provincial Archives take some time to read MG 636: South Coast Disaster Relief Committee Report consists of a list of losses by settlement, reports, telegrams, correspondence, minutes of meetings; regarding the tidal wave and earthquake disaster on the Burin Peninsula, 1929. The collection also includes a report of the South Coast Disaster Committee, 1931.

Recommended Web Site: http://earthquakescanada.nrcan.gc.ca/histor/20th-eme/1929/1929-eng.php

Recommended Book: Hanrahan, Maura. Tsunami: The Newfoundland Tidal Wave Disaster. St. John’s: Flanker Press, 2004.