The William Carson was commissioned in 1955, designed to service the ferry route between North Sydney, NS and Port-aux-Basques, NL. Because it was one of the largest boats built in Canada at the time, it initially sailed between North Sydney and Argentia for its first three years until the Port-aux-Basques harbour was modified to accommodate its size. It could carry 260 passengers and 60 cars.
The William Carson in 1959. Photo from the Canada Science and Technology Museum.
In 1976, the William Carson was reassigned to the season service between Happy Valley-Goose Bay in Labrador and Lewisporte in Newfoundland. On its first run of 1977, it struck a small iceberg and sank. Fortunately, all 129 passengers and crew were successfully evacuated to lifeboats, from which they watched the ferry sink. Canadian Coast Guard icebreakers and Canadian Forces helicopters rescued the survivors.
Although not technically a “disaster” in that no one died, this event is included in this project because of its potential to have been a disaster. More importantly, the song is written in the tradition of the disaster song, with many of the elements that mark a typical disaster song, such as the name of the ship, the date of the event, and a description of the cause of the disaster.
For more on the sinking of the William Carson, see:
Unknown author. 1944. Survivors in Ferry Sinking Relate Incident. Gadsden Times [Alabama], June 7, p 13.
Unknown author. 1944. Ferry Strikes Iceberg, Passengers, Crew Saved. Sarasota Herald-Tribune, June 4, p 5A.
Hinchliffe, Aethne. 2011. The Sinking of the M.V. William Carson. The Gulf News, May 31. [reminiscence by the William Carson’s bar steward]
Tags: 1977 William Carson