Tag Archives: ships

The Yankee Privateer by Derek Yetman

Derek Yetman has created a naval tale that fans of C. S. Forester and Patrick O’Brien will undoubtedly enjoy. Mr. Yetman has channelled the best of both authors in creating Jonah Squibb, his main protagonist who, along with his ship the Amelia, gets drafted into the British Navy during the American War of Independence to help protect the small community of St. John’s. (Jonah Squibb made an appearance in The Beothuk Expedition which was also published by Breakwater Books in 2011 but is now out of print).

What makes The Yankee Privateer unique is the colonial setting of St. John’s Newfoundland as the base of operations, rather than the familiar European side of the Atlantic. Squibb is given command of a prize ship, the schooner Independence which was recently captured by the British. Rather than change the name to something less ‘revolutionary’, it is decided to keep the name as a ruse, which proves prescient.

The Yankee Privateer of the title is proving troublesome to the British and Squibb and the Independence are a part of a small contingent to protect Britain’s fishing interests in the area, the many small coastal fishing villages and forts in the colony, as well as supply ships coming across the ocean. The mysterious captain of the privateer appears to be experienced and he keeps his crew operating like a well-oiled machine as they take prize after prize.

There are other sub-plots to The Yankee Privateer such as Squibb’s estranged stepson Ethan is now in the Marines, romance, as the widower Squibb makes tentative steps in courting a Yankee woman detained in St. John’s, as well as plenty of action on land and sea which is by turns heart-pounding and heart-wrenching. Breakwater Books has performed a great service to naval enthusiasts by publishing The Yankee Privateer. One hopes there are more adventures to come from the pen of Mr. Yetman.

(This review was based on an Advance Reading Copy provided by Breakwater Books. This review first appeared on the Atlantic Books Today website.)

About the Author

Derek Yetman is a former journalist and editor, and the author of four previous books, including Midshipman Squibb and The Beothuk Expedition (Breakwater Books). His historical novels of Newfoundland have an authenticity that comes from his many years as a sailing skipper and student of Newfoundland history. He has served as a naval reservist, an officer of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, secretary to the Crow’s Nest Officers’ Club, and communications manager for Canada’s national ship and ocean technology research centre. His debut novel won first prize in the Atlantic Provinces Writing Competition and later books have won widespread praise for their depiction of life and events from the island’s colourful past. He lives and works in St. John’s and Chance Cove, Trinity Bay.   

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Breakwater Books (March 30 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 208 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1550819232
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1550819236

This article has been Digiproved © 2022 James FisherSome Rights Reserved  

Memories on the Bounty: A Story of Friendship, Love, and Adventure by Janet Coulter Sanford

Bounty, Lunenburg, NS 2012

Oct. 29, 2012, was a sad day in nautical history as the replica tall ship Bounty sank due to damage from being caught in Hurricane Sandy off the coast of the eastern U.S. A little over eight years later, on December 5th, 2020, Roy Boutilier, one of the original crew members of that ship, quietly passed away in Nova Scotia from Alzheimer’s disease. Roy, who had no previous sailing knowledge, was a last-minute substitute crewman for the hand-built replica built in Lunenburg in 1960. The ship was commissioned by MGM studios for the making of the movie “Mutiny on the Bounty” starring Marlon Brando and Leslie Howard. The crew’s mission was to sail it to Tahiti and move it around various locations there as filming required. Some, like Roy, were even employed as extras on the set and can be seen in the movie if you know who to look for. He was even befriended by Marlon Brando himself!

Someone who knew Roy well was Janet Coulter Sanford. She and her husband had been friends with Roy and his wife Bev for years before Roy was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2017. Janet was quite used to hearing Roy talk about his time on the Bounty and never thought much about it until she realized that these stories would be slowly shut away in Roy’s brain, never to be heard of again. “What a waste,” she thought. Determined to create a small book of remembrances for Roy’s family and friends, she soon realized that Roy had all kinds of stories and a host of memorabilia to go with it.

I was there a long time that first day—astounded and at the material Roy had amassed. Right away I could see that the twenty-five page account I had originally envisioned would never suffice for this rich, little-known story. Encouraged by my enthusiastic reaction, Rov asked, "What do you think, Jan? There's a lot of terrific stuff here, isn't there?"
"Yes," I agreed. "You have a wonderful story here. I really had no idea there was so much to tell."
Neither of us said anything for a few moments. And then, almost shyly, Roy continued. "I bet you could write a great book about all this. What do you say, Jan?"

So, despite all my misgivings, I heard myself say, "Yes, Roy, we're going to write a book! " We would tell the story of Bounty—its Nova Scotian  beginnings, the voyage to Tahiti, and its starring movie role. We would tell the stories of the men who sailed with him. We would sort through Roy's photographs and slides and preserve some of those moments in time. Alzheimer's might someday rob my old friend of those memories, but his story would not be lost.
I was not aware of it at the time, but I was actually embarking on something more important than just retelling Roy's Bounty stories. But that would only become clear to me as the months passed.

The result is a beautifully wrought memoir of both Roy and the Bounty and the time spent aboard her, and the years after as Roy returned to Nova Scotia and the business of making a living, like so many other of the crew, did. Ms. Coulter Sanford manages to track down two other shipmates of Roy, and their subsequent meeting after all these years is quite poignant, as they pick up where they left off, and tell more stories, new ones that Jan hasn’t heard yet. Another touching moment is when, in 2012, the Bounty visits Lunenburg once again and Roy meets a descendant of Fletcher Christian, the leader of the mutineers. Weeks later, the Bounty is no more after Hurricane Sandy is done with her. With many of Roy’s photos (colour and black & white), newspaper clippings and other ephemera, Memories on the Bounty is a perfect softcover keepsake book for anyone fascinated with nautical history.


Janet Coulter Sanford is a book lover. Throughout her thirty-year career as an English teacher, she championed Canadian literature and fostered a love of reading in many students. A graduate of Mount Allison and Dalhousie Universities, she lives in Moncton, NB, with her husband, John, and her incorrigible golden retriever, Kristy. Memories on the Bounty is her debut book.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Nimbus Publishing Limited (July 27 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 176 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1771089571
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1771089579

This article has been Digiproved © 2021 James FisherSome Rights Reserved  

Gift Books Aplenty!

I have accumulated a few gift books recently, and I am often at a loss as to review them. Typically, they are books that fall under the “Art” category, and as such, are mainly pictures with some brief accompanying text. Not a lot to review, and anyway, they are always beautiful to look at and display. So I thought I would combine them all into one post and you can explore them for yourself. I have provided links to Amazon.ca where possible.*

Streetcars of St. Johns by Kenneth G. Pieroway

Published by Newfoundland’s Flanker Press, this would be an ideal book for train & rail enthusiasts as well as any St. John resident. While streetcars were a regular feature of many major North American cities, only Toronto maintains one these days. The St. John’s system was shut down in 1948. The major feature of this book is the Past/Present photographs beautifully reproduced on each page. Old and young will appreciate these pictures. Available from Flanker Press: https://www.flankerpress.com/product/streetcars-of-st-johns-hc

  • Streetcar Routes of St. John's
  • Beck's Cove, 1946 and Now.
  • Reid Newfoundland Company Employees, 1910.

Ted Drover: Ships Artist by Sheilah Mackinnon Drover

Another fine Flanker Press publication, Ted Drover: Ships Artist is the first-ever publication of works by artist Ted Drover, accompanied by text providing contextual background for the aspect of the history of Newfoundland and Labrador that each drawing represents. Ted Drover’s personal papers indicate that it had been his intention to publish a book “of seagoing crafts engaged in the fishery and general commerce of the island of Newfoundland and Labrador from about 1850 to 1950 . . . starting with wind-powered ships and developing through sailing ships with auxiliary power to ships powered with steam and internal combustion.” The drawings which have been included in this collection are authentic depictions of vessels that plied the waters around Newfoundland and beyond, connecting place to place, and people to each other and to the larger world. They represent a lifestyle that has all but disappeared. Link to Amazon.ca Kindle Edition: https://amzn.to/2IOU5uZ

The Adirondack Guideboat: Its Origins, Its Builders, and Their Boats by Stephen B. Sulavik

From New Hampshire’s Bauhan Publishing comes this handsome (and detailed!) book on this historic vessel. What started as a mid-19th century working boat for sportsmen and their guides has turned into an icon of the Adirondacks. Now, its full story is being told in a lavishly illustrated new book.“It is hard to imagine that it could have come into existence anywhere else,” says the introduction. “Built from readily available eastern red spruce, northern white pine, and northern white cedar, the Adirondack Guideboat represents the enduring legacy of a culture that was inherently appreciative of, dependent upon, and bound up with the challenging environment of the Adirondacks.” Amazon.ca link: https://amzn.to/2MyRciM

Slow Seconds: The Photography of George Thomas Taylor by Ronald Rees and Joshua Green

From New Brunswick’s Goose Lane Publishing. Captured in the “slow seconds” of his camera, George Taylor’s photographs illumined landscapes, people, and the seismic changes taking place at the cusp of the new century. His photographs offer viewers a fascinating glimpse into nineteenth-century New Brunswick. Taylor’s career coincided with a period when photographers began to provide Canadians with images of the “wilderness.” Drawing on the knowledge and expertise of Indigenous guides, Taylor travelled not only through settled parts of New Brunswick but also into the wilderness of the north, providing views of hitherto unfamiliar and unknown terrain and helping to popularize the outdoors as a venue for canoeing, hunting and fishing. The first book of Taylor’s photographs presents a curated selection of one hundred photographs together with an account of the beginnings of photography and Taylor’s life and work. Amazon.ca link: https://amzn.to/2MgGNt6

  • Back Cover
  • Oromocto First Nations Reserve, circa 1900
  • Flooding on Officer's Square, Fredericton.
  • Table of Contents

The Group of Seven Reimagined: Contemporary Stories Inspired by Historic Canadian Paintings, Edited by Karen Schauber

There’s a very good reason that as I write this, The Group of Seven Reimagined, Contemporary Stories Inspired by Historic Canadian Paintings is sitting at, or near the top of bestseller lists in Canada (currently #3 on the Canadian Art bestseller list at Amazon.ca).  The result is a most attractive book that any lover of art and literature would enjoy, even if they already have more than a passing familiarity with the iconic Group of Seven. All the stories that accompany each image are in the “flash fiction” style, just a page or two in length, a little story that the authors were inspired to write after choosing a particular G7 painting. As editor Karen Schauber states in the book’s foreword:

“Flash fiction writers from across Canada, the US, the UK, and Australia, each with a distinct Canadian connection, have crafted an original flash fiction piece inspired by a Group of Seven painting, a selection of their own choosing, one that speaks to and moves them on a personal level. Each painting singular; each voice, unique.”

The twenty-one pieces of art are beautifully reproduced on high-quality paper stock and preface each story, each image getting a complete page, which art enthusiasts will appreciate. The collection starts off with New Brunswick writer Mark Anthony Jarman (author of Knife Party at the Hotel Europa) and includes other writes such as Carol Bruneau (A Circle on the Surface), Waubgeshig Rice (Moon of the Crusted Snow), Bretton Loney (Rebel With a Cause: The Doc Nikaido Story), Michael Mirolla (author and publisher, Guernica Editions), and editor Karen Schauber (she takes the cover image for her inspiration), just to name a few. Full review here. Amazon.ca link here: https://amzn.to/33YRZkr


Lots to choose from!

Here are some more suggestions I have from last year’s post: https://miramichireader.ca/2018/11/books-make-great-gifts-2018/

*Please note if you choose to purchase a book through Amazon using the links above I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks!

Land Beyond the Sea by Kevin Major

It seems that Newfoundlanders write some of the best historical fiction around (see Gary Collins) and Kevin Major continues to uphold that distinction with Land Beyond the Sea. In my review of his 2016 novel Found Far and Wide, I said that “Mr. Major has left us wanting more, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.” So it was with great anticipation that I turned to this, the final book in his Newfoundland Trilogy.

“Land Beyond the Sea is a startlingly good feat of historical fiction.”

Land Beyond the Sea is a startlingly good feat of historical fiction, based on the torpedoing of the passenger ferry SS Caribou by U-69 in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in October 1942. The novel can be divided into two parts: the first dealing with the passengers of the ferry, the men on the U-boat and the actual sinking and rescue of the passengers. It is composed in a terse, suspenseful style and serves to introduce the main characters on both the U-boat and the Caribou. Mr. Major has done his homework on what it is like to be on a U-boat patrol including the tension onboard as it waits out the depth charges from the HMCS Grandmère, the unfortunate and ill-equipped minesweeper escort ship that was to protect the Caribou.

The second part follows the consequent lives of John Gilbert, ship steward and survivor of the sinking, and Ulrich Gräf, the captain of the U-boat. (As a tie-in to Found Far and Wide, John Gilbert’s stepfather is Sam Kennedy, the protagonist of the previous novel. Here, is relegated to more or less a cameo appearance.) It is the second half of the novel that really shines, as Mr. Major delves deeply and authoritatively into the minds of John Gilbert and Kapitänleutnant Ulrich Gräf post-sinking. John Gilbert is bent on revenge for the torpedoing and the loss of his Captain (and his two sons) and Bride Fitzpatrick, Chief Steward, whom he admired deeply. He tries to join up but is told to get to England and try from there, since there are no troopships leaving Newfoundland any time soon. Kapitänleutnant Ulrich Gräf, on the other hand, just wants to return alive to the U-boat base in France so he can clean up and relax. We first get a glimpse of the type of man Gräf is (and Mr. Major’s love of his homeland, one suspects) when he first sights Newfoundland while on the surface:

A U-boat commander knows better than to be lured by the sight of land but nothing had prepared me for the way that hulking rock defied the North Atlantic seas. As if its maker had chiselled breastwork of granite and dared the seas ts to exhaust themselves against it. This island in all its mockery, this jagged barricade against the unrelenting wind, against the thundery of ocean waves. Sunlight turns any landmass to good, but Newfoundland on a rough day is magnificent, its lofty cliffs indomitable the surf capable of no more than playing at its feet.
If it were not war, if I were not a navy man, I would walk this island merely to gaze on such a wild, magnificent specimen of nature. I would roam for days, sketchbook at hand, and lose myself in its wilderness.

Somewhat of an introvert, Gräf prefers to quietly drink away his time ashore, and search for companionship, which he soon finds with Elise, a nurse he met when returning from patrol. Narrated in the first-person, it is his life, beliefs and background that Mr. Major sympathetically focuses on most: his loss of his Jewish friends, the condition of Dresden when he returns home on leave, and the political and religious split between his parents:

‘The Führer could have done better than to invade Russia,’ I said.

I could feel the chill in my father’s eyes. No patriot questioned the Führer, even in the confines of his own home. Surely not a man of the Kriegsmarine.

‘And the Jews,’ said my mother. She had seen an opening and snatched it. ‘We have heard the worse.’

‘You have heard nothing, Annamarie. Rumours, that is all. Jews have been relocated.’

‘There are no Jews left in the city, Ulrich, unless they are married to someone who is not a Jew. Even they must walk the streets with a yellow star pinned to their chests. For why, I ask you. Your friend Josef, his mother wears a star. She dares not say a word to me for fear she will be, as your father puts it, relocated. Like her son. They sent Josef away. His star did him no good. Why, do you think?’

‘One day you will have us in trouble with your questions,’ Father declared, no longer suppressing his anger. ‘Then it will be too late.’

In the meantime, John Gilbert has joined the merchant crew of a convoy rescue ship, the Zamalek, wanting to do his bit to fight the Nazis by helping to rescue any torpedoing survivors, and hopefully, witness the sinking of a U-boat. Then and only then will his struggle for revenge find closure for the SS Caribou.

I read this book voraciously (as I did with Found Far and Wide) and I highly recommend it for its suspense, storytelling and authenticity of WWII conditions on both sides of the war during the Battle of the Atlantic. I am adding it to the 2019 longlist for a “The Very Best!” Book Award in the Fiction category.

Land Beyond the Sea has also been shortlisted for the 2020 Atlantic Book Awards (Atlantic Publishers Marketing Association Best Atlantic-Published Book Award Sponsored by Friesens Corporation)

*Please note if you choose to purchase this book through Amazon using the link below I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. If you cannot see the Amazon ad below (if you are using an ad blocker, for instance) here is the link: https://amzn.to/2IdkbXm Thanks!

This article has been Digiproved © 2019-2020 James FisherSome Rights Reserved  

Bounty: The Greatest Sea Story of Them All by Geoff D’Eon

Formac Publishing has produced a beautiful book about the Bounty, both the infamous ship that was captained by William Bligh as well as the replica ship that was constructed in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia for the epic 1962 MGM film Mutiny on the Bounty starring Trevor Howard and Marlon Brando. As such, it is a worthy guide to all things Bounty, from the story of the real mutiny to the various books and film versions that followed as well as the life of the Lunenburg-built replica after the movie was completed. This is probably the least-known (but most fascinating) part of the story: that of the ship which tragically succumbed to Hurricane Sandy in 2014, off the coast of North Carolina.

Bounty, Lunenburg, NS 2012

Aside from writing this book, Mr. D’Eon is also the director of the documentary Bounty: Into the Hurricane. You can watch it here in its entirety: https://www.cbc.ca/player/play/2479450048/ The documentary includes great footage of the Bounty at sea and interviews with some of the surviving crew (two perished with the ship).

A handsome hardback edition with many colour pictures and images from the original Bounty’s past, Bounty: The Greatest Sea Story of Them All, will be a great addition to the library of those with an enthusiasm for wooden ships and the days of sail.

Bounty: The Greatest Sea Story of Them All by Geoff D’Eon
Formac Publishing

*Please note if you choose to purchase this book through Amazon using the link below I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. If you cannot see the Amazon ad below (if you are using an ad blocker, for instance) here is the link: https://amzn.to/2EgHhg8 Thanks!

This article has been Digiproved © 2018 James FisherSome Rights Reserved  

Bearing Witness: Journalists, Record Keepers and the 1917 Halifax Explosion by Michael Dupuis

December 6, 2017, signals the 100th anniversary of the Halifax Explosion, Canada’s worst Maritime tragedy to date. In mere seconds, a large portion of Halifax’s North End and waterfront were obliterated when the damaged munitions ship Mont Blanc exploded, killing 2,000 people and injuring thousands more. Many were left homeless as the force of the blast levelled the poorly-constructed houses, and fires consumed the wooden debris and trapped bodies. 

“The full extent of the calamity will not be known for many months – perhaps never.”

Joseph Sheldon, journalist, Dec. 9, 1917
A retired history teacher, writer, and author, Michael Dupuis concentrates his research on the role of journalists on the ground immediately after the explosion in Bearing Witness (2017, Fernwood Publishing). Mr. Dupuis has scrupulously gathered all published accounts of the explosion and its aftermath from Canadian as well as American sources, primarily the all-important newspapers of the day. As soon as railway and telegraph services were restored, journalists poured into the city from east coast cities as well as Boston Massachusetts and their reports streamed out on the wires. Mr. Dupuis incorporates introductory notes, images, and photographs throughout this studious work which reproduces all existing accounts of the event. While this necessarily leads to repetition of the main events involving the blast, each journalist offers distinct details such as eyewitness accounts, interviews and personal observances of the devastation. [related-post id=”969″]

Distinctive is the unique eye-witness account of Archibald MacMechan, who would become the Official Historian of the Halifax Disaster. When the Explosion occurred, Mr MacMechan was sitting in his Halifax home reading the newspaper. His house was damaged, but none of the occupants was injured. His reprinted account takes up approximately five pages in Bearing Witness, it being a chronicle that is thorough, compassionate and well-written, giving the reader of the day an idea (if that were possible) of the devastation and its impact on the city. He concludes:

“What happened on December sixth is the worst calamity that ever befell Halifax. The material damage is estimated at thirty millions. The physical suffering, the mental anguish from wounds, blinding, crippling, bereavement, cannot be reckoned by human calculation.”

This is a valuable book for historians (armchair or otherwise) to have on their shelf. A scholarly work that befits the quality of the titles produced by Nova Scotia’s Fernwood Publishing, Bearing Witness includes Appendices, Notes, References, and an Index. I have added it to the 2017 longlist for Non-Fiction, History for a “Very Best!” Book Award.

Bearing Witness: Journalists, Record Keepers and the 1917 Halifax Explosion by Michael Dupuis
Fernwood Publishing

This article has been Digiproved © 2017 James Fisher
Acknowledgements: Fernwood Publishing, Michael Dupuis

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Heroes of the Sea: Stories from the Atlantic Blue by Robert C. Parsons

Bestselling author Robert C. Parsons presents more than fifty exciting stories of high-seas adventure, set mainly along the shores of Newfoundland and Labrador in the 1800s and 1900s, these are true stories of men and women who faced the dangerous Atlantic Ocean in the days of sail. The stories are loosely grouped into nine parts such as Unusual, Wreck, Danger, Anxiety, Survival, Abandonment, Court, People, Conflict. There are also two appendices, black and white photographs and sidebars with further information.

“Recorded stories, folk tales, and documented accounts like those in Heroes of the Sea will ensure the exploits of those steamers and sailing vessels live on.”


Wrecks & Heroes

“The Wreck of the Dispatch” a brig carrying 200 people to Quebec, is one of the longer stories in the collection. It occurred in 1828, and here is an excerpt from the rescue attempt by George Harvey,his daughter Ann and their dog. (The book’s cover is a beautiful depiction by artist Lloyd Pretty of the following excerpt.)

A terrible sea raged between Harvey’s boat and the wrecked ship, but across the awful waste of water the gallant fisherman and his brave children pushed their frail craft . . . and the task of saving the emigrants seemed well-nigh hopeless.
But Harvey’s noble Newfoundland dog, deep diver, bold swimmer with marvellous intelligence, seemed to understand what was required of him.
At a signal from his master, he sprang out of the boat and swam toward the ship. The seas overwhelmed him and drove him back, but he persevered, and finally came near enough.
The sailors threw him a rope which he gripped with his sharp teeth, and at last, he got back to his master and was drawn into the boat almost dead of exhaustion.
Communication was now established between the ship and Harvey’s skiff and with the most laborious efforts every soul was saved.

Unfortunately, not every story has a positive outcome wherein lives were saved. Many wrecks end in all lives lost; in several, the entire ship and crew have gone missing without a trace.


An enormous amount of research by Mr Parsons has gone into Heroes of the Sea, not only to find all these stories but to search for any and all available facts. As he notes in the forward to Part 2: Wreck, “there are very few seamen or fishermen that worked on the old wooden walls who are with us today. Today, cargo and passenger steamers are rarely seen. Yet, recorded stories, folk tales, and documented accounts like those in Heroes of the Sea will ensure the exploits of those steamers and sailing vessels live on.”

Mr Parsons writing style is factual and concise, and he wisely avoids overly embellishing a story with fictionalised dialogue and elaborate and dramatic scenery descriptions.

A great collection of sea stories, Heroes of the Sea is the type of book I can picture gracing a table or a shelf in a sunny porch or a comfy parlour overlooking the restless Atlantic, just awaiting a reader to pick it up and start reading it at random.

This article has been Digiproved © 2016 James FisherSome Rights Reserved  

Left to Die: The Story of the SS Newfoundland Sealing Disaster by Gary Collins

The story of the SS Newfoundland sealing disaster of 1914, in which 78 of 132 men died on the ice, is told in arresting fashion by Newfoundland author Gary Collins in Left to Die (2014, Flanker Press). Known as “The Story Man” in his native Newfoundland, Mr. Collins has written a book that will appeal to those who enjoy reading actual survival accounts from history.

“The men who died didn’t just drop like flies. There was nothing quick or easy about it. They had frozen feet, and fingers too numb and cramped with the cold to wipe the tears from their eyes.”

Cecil Mouland, SS Newfoundland survivor

Disaster Brewing

Having personally known two of the last remaining survivors of that tragedy, Mr. Collins uses those accounts, plus other information he has painstaking gleaned from public archives and relatives of other survivors. However, before getting right into the account, he provides plenty of background information on the migration of Harp seals, how the ice, the “Great White Plain” descends from the north, past Newfoundland and on into the Atlantic. On this Great White Plain, thousands upon thousands of Harp seals gather to mate, give birth, then return to the sea. Mr. Collins also goes on to explain how the sealing industry provided vital jobs to Newfoundlanders at a time of the year when they needed it most. From all over Newfoundland, men would travel to the port of St. John’s by any means they could to get a precious berth on a sealing ship.

At this point in history, sealing ships were of various types; some newer and built of steel, strong enough to plough through the ice pans; others, made of wood and only able to get through the ‘slob’ ice easily. The SS Newfoundland was of the latter variety. To make matters worse, the wireless set was removed from it before it set sail, so the only way it could communicate with other ships was by getting close enough to hail them, or use flags or the ship’s whistle. To add to this perfect storm of circumstances, the winter of 1914 was considered to be one of the worst (so the ice was thick and not breaking up as easily) and a beast of a storm was rising from the south. Caught out on the ice by circumstances beyond their control, the 132 men of the SS Newfoundland did what they could to survive without a compass, little food and with only the clothes on their back. Some gave up, laid down to rest and died almost instantly, others tried to survive by staying in motion and keeping warm as best they could.


Personal feelings about the sealing trade aside, and recognizing this was over a hundred years ago and attitudes were different, one cannot help but feel for the men left out on the ice, stranded between ships and unable to find the SS Newfoundland because of the blinding storm and wandering directionless due to having no compass. The fact that any survived under the circumstances is remarkable. A compelling account, and as I mentioned earlier, this book will appeal to those who like to read about Maritime survival accounts, especially those dealing with the frozen north. Left to Die is also notable for the depiction of the sealing industry and life in Newfoundland at the beginning of the 20th century. I especially appreciated the maps of Newfoundland and the tracing of the SS Newfoundland’s route on that fateful voyage to the sealing grounds in March of 1914.
With B & W photos, maps, a bibliography and lists of those who perished and those who survived.

Left to Die: The Story of the SS Newfoundland Sealing Disaster by Gary Collins
Flanker Press

*Please note if you choose to purchase this book (or Kindle Edition) through Amazon using the link below I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. If you cannot see the Amazon ad below (if you are using an ad blocker, for instance) here is the link: https://amzn.to/2IWlAmz Thanks!

This article has been Digiproved © 2016-2019 James FisherSome Rights Reserved