1892 Trinity Bay

MacEdward Leach provides the account of the tragedy as written by historian D. W. Prowse and published in his History of Newfoundland (London, 1896), p520:

Saturday, the 29th of February 1892, is a dark day in the annals of Trinity, a day to be remembered and mourned. The morning sky ushered in a lovely dawn, the sky was clear, a soft, bright, balmy air blew from the land over the treacherous sea, the light breeze scarcely ruffled its bosom. From Trinity and every harbour adjacent, boats were out by early dawn in pursuit of seals, which had been seen the previous evening. From Trinity, Ship Cove, Trouty, English Harbour, Salmon Cove, and other small places, the daring ice hunters set off with high hopes and buoyant spirits to chase the wary seal; in this most exciting and dangerous pursuit the Newfoundlander recks not of danger; difficulties and perils that would affright one unaccustomed to the ice fields are mere sport to the hardy native. On this eventful day seals were few and scattered; in the fierce excitement of the chase many went far out in the bay, heedless of the coming tempest; a few of the older fishermen, especially those from Trinity, more wary, and probably less vigorous, noticed the first signs of the storm, and before the icy blast came down with full force they were under the lee of the land and could row in. Two hundred and fifteen men were out that day; the majority got safe to land after a tremendous struggle for their lives; the rest of the heroic fishermen in spite of their exertions were finally over-powered; with strong arms they rowed for their lives, but the freezing icy tornado swept down upon them and paralyzed their efforts; they had done all that men could do against the blizzard; they fought with the gale while instant death appeared on every wave. One bold crew from English Harbour, seeing all their attempts to stem the tempest were in vain, made for the ice; so chilling was the blast that one young fellow became paralyzed with the cold before they reached the ice However, Newfoundlanders in a difficulty are never without resource. They climbed onto a pan higher than the rest, where they made a rude shelter; their boat was broken up to make a fire; with this and some seals they managed to live through that awful night. Thirteen fishermen were found frozen to death in their little punts; eleven others were driven up the bay and perished in that awful dark cold night of death … a gallant crew from Heart’s Delight saved the sixteen men on the ice; the generous Captain Fowlow put out in the schooner and succoured some and brought them home to their agonized families. Charity flowed in to the widows and orphans … sympathy was called forth for the mourners, for those, alas, whose sorrow for the dead will never die, who all life long will grieve over the death and destruction of that dark day of storm.

(Quoted in Leach, MacEdward, ed. 1965. Folk Ballads & Songs of the Lower Labrador Coast, pp 187-8. Ottawa: National Museum of Canada.)

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