Tag Archives: ice

“The Titanic has struck a berg”

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

April 14, 1912

On April 10, 1912, the RMS Titanic set sail from Southampton on her maiden voyage to New York. At that time, she was the largest and most luxurious ship ever built. At 11:40 PM on April 14, 1912, she struck an iceberg about 400 miles off Newfoundland. Although her crew had been warned about icebergs several times that evening by other ships navigating through that region, she was traveling at near top speed of about 20.5 knots when one grazed her side.

In 1912, the Marconi wireless radio was still in its infancy state as far as utilization. Marconi operators, Harold Bride and Jack Philips  on the direction of the ships Captain  (Smith)  put on the headphones and immediately began tapping out CQD – MGY … CQD – MGY  which translates  to CQD = Come Quick Danger or  attention all stations, D =  distress or danger, and MGY was the Titanic’s radio call letters.

Walter Gray, Jack Goodwin and Robert Hunston were serving at the Marconi Company wireless station at Cape RaceNewfounldand  400 miles west of Titanic.  The wireless news was being handled by them.

TWO FRIENDS: THEIR  LAST CONVERSATION

It would have been a very difficult night for Walter Gray at Cape Race.  The Marconi operator on the Titanic was his good friend Jack Philips.  Jack had been the last person that he had seen in England before he had departed for Newfoundland.  Walter had been excited all the day of April 14 – he was waiting anxiously at Cape Race waiting for the Titanic and his good friend Jack to come within ‘hearing” distance of Cape Race.   Walter later wrote:

“That evening I held brief conversation with Philips. He emphasized the magnificence of the vessel, the wonderful group of passengers and the good time being had by all.

Later in the evening the second operator (Hunston) called out “Mr. Gray the Titanic has struck an iceberg and is calling C.Q.D. (COME QUICK DANGER)  I immediately dropped what I was doing and ran to the operating room.

Donning the headphones, I heard Philips call for help using both distress calls, C.Q.D. and the newly-introduced S.O.S. His call included the ship’s position in Latitude and longitude, weather conditions, and the story of striking the berg. When he ceased, I called the Titanic and inquired whether I could assist in any way. Philips thanked me and asked me to stand by.

A short time after 2:00 a.m. a very weak distorted signal was heard and the “Virginian” being much closer picked up what they thought was Philips voice trying to get a message out and that was the last word from the radio operator, Philips.”

Less than three hours later, the Titanic plunged to the bottom of the sea, taking more than 1500 people with her. Only a fraction of her passengers were saved. The world was stunned to learn of the fate of the unsinkable Titanic.

Water Gray’s good friend Jack Philips was one of those that perished.

Recommended Archival Collection:  At the Rooms Provincial Archives Division: The Cape Race Log Book:  A journal of predominantly one line entries highlighting events of local, national and international interest, as maintained by various members of the Myrick family at Cape Race and Trepassey.  Includes reference to the sinking of the Titanic.

Recommended Reading:  The Life Story of An Old Shetlander, Walter J. Gray, Shetland Times, 1970.

No Tidings of the Southern Cross

Archival Moment

April 7, 1914

No Tidings of the Southern Cross

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: LS 48 S.S. Southern Cross

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: LS 48 S.S. Southern Cross

On April 7, 1914, the St. John’s daily newspaper the Evening telegram reported:

 “Much anxiety and grave concern is being felt for the Southern Cross. Her non arrival is causing universal alarm but there is no reason why hope should be abandoned.

Exactly a week ago (April 2, 1914)  this forenoon Captain T. Connors  of the Coastal S.S. Portia  passed the Southern Cross five miles W.S.W.  of Cape Pine. That same afternoon the fatal blizzard came in and it is believed the Southern Cross was driven off to sea a couple of hundred miles and since then has not been able to reach the land.

Ever since it was reported by Captain Connors relatives and friends of loved ones on board have been besieging  the telegraph offices  in the city and outports and the eager information “Have you any news of the Southern Cross”  is sought for but unfortunately the reply is always in the negative.

However the Southern Cross is only a week overdue and this is not considered long by nautical men as the records will show.  The crew of the Southern Cross whose names have already been published  belong to St. John’s, Conception Harbour, Brigus, Clarke’s Beach, Bay Roberts, Harbour Grace , Spaniards bay and St. Vincent’s.

On April 6 the absence of the Southern Cross was discussed by the Executive Government (Cabinet) and it was decided to send the revenue cruiser Flona to assist the Kyle and the U.S. Scout  ship Seneca in searching for the overdue vessel. The unanimous hope is that the “Cross” will turn up all right.”

The whole of the country of Newfoundland was mourning.  All were aware of the 78 sealers who had died on the S.S. Newfoundland.  The bodies of many of these men had been placed on special trains to be sent home.  Those that were not along the train route were being sent home by coastal vessels.

Among those that were on their way home to be buried was the body of Patrick Corbett, age 22, lost on the S.S. Newfoundland.   Joseph Corbett the head of the household was now waiting for news on his 18 year old son Joseph Jr.  a sealer on the S.S. Southern Cross.

The Parish Priest in Clarke’s Beach, Reverend Whelan observed that it was a difficult time on the family “Joseph the father is subject to heart trouble, he depends on the assistance of these two young men for the support of his now helpless family. I greatly fear that he will not last much longer …”

It would be thirteen more days before the S.S. Southern Cross was declared lost with her whole crew.

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.

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/

Bodies all identified and sent home

Archival Moment

” deep in silent grief”

April 6, 1914

The bodies of the sealers were sent home by special train. The corpses were taken away from the hall in sleighs. In the entire procession thousands of men and boys took part.

Photo Credit:  The Rooms Provincial Archives. The bodies of the sealers were sent home by special train. The corpses were taken away from the hall in sleighs. In the entire procession thousands of men and boys took part. (Click on photo to enlarge)

On April 6, 1914 the St. John’s newspaper the Evening Telegram reported:

“Yesterday, there was a wave of sympathy on every street and in every home in St. John’s.  The Grenfell Hall or temporary mortuary room, where the bodies were brought for identification was filled all day with sorrowing relatives and friends of the deceased brethren.”

The bodies were those of the 77 sealers from the sealing vessel the S.S. Newfoundland who had perished on the ice on March 31 – April 2.  The Grenfell Hall was also known as the King George V Seamen’s Institute.  The frozen bodies of dead sealers were thawed in vats of hot water in the basement of the building.

The Telegram continued:

“Standing outside the Hall all day was a multitude deep in silent grief.  The solemnity of the occasion will be remembered for generations to come.

At 5’ o’clock all the bodies were identified. Thirty eight bodies were sent home by special train. The corpses were taken away from the hall in sleighs. In the entire procession thousands of men and boys took part.

One body was drawn on the gun carriage of the H.M.S. Caypso, the departed sealer being a member of the Naval Reserve.  The bodies numbering 25, belonging to outports where there are no direct train communication, were hermetically sealed and brought to the morgue last night and will be sent home by steamer.”

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 ReadingPERISHED  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.

Recommended Film:The National Film Board’s documentary 54 Hours written by Michael Crummey, uses animation, survivor testimony and archival footage view the short film from your own home: 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/

 

St. Mary’s Bay in mourning, men marooned on ice, lost.

untitledArchival Moment

March 29, 1875

There was much excitement in the town of St. Mary’s, St. Mary’s Bay on March 2, 1875, excitement that would by the end of the month turn into grieving.

The excitement was stirred by the sighting of a vessel 2 ½ miles from the shore of St. Mary’s, stuck in the ice. The men of the town looked on this as an opportunity to salvage the vessel. A party of thirty four men and one young boy, 14 year old John Grace was quickly gathered and they started out on the ice too the brig, spending the day on board.

Toward evening they started back to St. Mary’s, but had not proceeded far when the terrible fact was presented to them that the ice had parted between them and the shore, and the opening was increasing every moment.

The men would be marooned on a pan of ice for the best part of the month, many died, and some would be rescued from the pan of ice by a the schooner Georg S. Fogg on route to Bermuda. The survivors were later transferred to a larger passing steamship, the Nurnberg, on route to Baltimore, Maryland. It was on arrival in Baltimore that a reporter with the Baltimore Sun learned off the plight of the men from St. Mary’s and interviewed the men writing this story.

Andrew Mooney of St. Mary’s interview with the Baltimore Sun

Andrew Mooney a man of thirty six years, with an intelligent and honest countenance, who is among those of the Nuremberg said yesterday (March 28, 1875) that all were neighbors to each other, and nearly all were born in St. Mary’s. He and a number of others have large families, which they supported by fishing in the summer.

Mooney told the Baltimore Sun that when they saw that the ice had parted they realized they were in trouble.

The Baltimore Sun reported:

Consternation seized upon them as they hastened forward, and each threw away his heavy outer clothing as he ran, to be encumbered as little as possible. When the brink of the ice was reached the space of water between them and the shore was half a mile wide, the ice haven broken one mile from the land, and the immense field upon which they stood floating steadily further out to sea.

It was now quite dark, the party was exhausted and half-clad and they prepared for the terrible cold which soon set in. At first it rained until they were all wet to the skin. The rain then turned to sleet and snow, the wind veered to the northward, and the cold became intense, the fierce blast of the wind cutting them to the bone.

Then began the effort for life, the men stamping their feet, running madly about, and the more sturdy encouraging the weak and faltering. The cold still increased, as Mooney says, it had reached a degree of intensity not equaled before in that latitude this winter.

“When morning dawned several corpses were counted …”

At midnight the cold and exhaustion began to tell upon the doomed ones in the little party. First one and then another of them would lie down saying he could not go any further. The others would pick them up and try to keep them on their feet but after reeling for a short distance like drunken men they would fall senseless upon the ice and die without a struggle. Those able to keep their feet had enough to keep themselves from falling into fatal lethargy and with sad hearts each victim was left to his fate. Father or son or brother saw each other fall and were powerless to help. When morning dawned several corpses were counted at intervals along the ice and of the remainder none could tell who was to be the next victim.

On that terrible night, March 2, the boy and other delicate ones were placed in the middle of the throng as they stood or moved about and thus secured some shelter.

A field of ice twenty feet square floated near the brink of the ice in the open water, upon which nine of them got, hoping that it would float toward the shore ice and they could thus save themselves. When it had floated three hundredyards from the ice, upon which their comrades stood it groundeed, and the unfortunates remained upon it for three days and nights, during which time six of them died, the other three being picked up by the schooner Georg S. Fogg on the 6th March.

When it is remembered that seven died on that first night, it is wonderful that three of the nine on the small icefield escaped alive, they having endured hunger as well as the cold. All the food they had in all that time was a small white fish which was frozen in the ice. This they divided between them.

The eighteen men remaining after the nine floated off the small ice field made their way back to the abandoned brig, which was tightly jammed in the ice, and was carried with it. All expected to die in her and some of them had lost their senses before reaching her the second time. There were no stores on the brig and they subsisted on molasses a few oranges and edible scraps that could be found.

“… a schooner was seen four miles away…”

At length, one evening at sunset, a schooner was seen four miles away, which had been caught in the same field that imprisoned the brig. That night the half famished men held a council and determined to reach the schooner next day or die in the effort. Next morning at daylight they embarked in the brig’s small boat, which could scarcely hold them all, and after struggling through the ice nearly all day reached the schooner George S. Fogg and were saved. There they met the three survivors of their nine comrades who left them nearly two weeks before, the three singularly enough, having been saved by the same vessel that had rescued the other eighteen.

Captain Spence gave them plenty of food, and if the prayers of these grateful, honest, poor Irish fishermen can avail to make his future life prosperous, he will never want on this earth’s stores. The twenty one fishermen and crew of seven over crowded the little schooner, but the Captain had food enough for all, and all the discomfort that they experienced was from their circumscribed quarters. Some of the more robust of the party perished, and some of the more frail escaped, among them the boy James Grace.

To a question as to how the news would be received in St. Mary’s, Mooney replied, as he brushed a tear away, there is now mourning in every household, for they do not know that any of us are saved. He said that he had six children, and that some of those who had died have families equally as large.

Names of those from St. Mary’s who perished:

The names of the men who perished on the ice were: John Poole, Michael Poole, James Vale, Michael Waile (Vale) , Thomas Boone, Patrick Dobbin, Gregory Rouser, (Rousell)  John Rouser (Rousell) and Patrick Waile (Vale) . Michael and Patrick Waile (Vale)  were father and son Gregory and John Rouser (Rousell)  were father and son.

The unmarried men were Joseph Grace, Patrick Leatham, Michael Barre (Barry) , and William Boone.

Names of those from St. Mary’s brought to Baltimore:

Andrew Mooney and Thomas Mooney, brothers; William Ruben; Patrick and William Tobin, brothers; John Fuer (Furey), James Grace (aged 14) whose brother Joseph Grace perished, James Peddle, Thomas Barre (Barry) , perished, and Benjamin Sancrow (St. Croix).

Recommended Archival Collection: The Rooms Provincial Archives: GN 20/1 March 29, 1875, Baltimore Sun: Thrilling Story of the Sea. Adventure of thirty four men.