Please note that this “Maritime Disasters” section is still under construction. Maritime disaster songs form the vast majority of our Atlantic Canadian disaster song collection and it will take us a while to get all the data up. But we wanted to start making the collection available, so please enjoy! Your feedback is, as ever, welcome. Just click on “Forum” or “Contact.”
Canada’s east coast was originally of interest to Europeans in no small part due to its fish. At first, European fishermen travelled to Newfoundland and other parts of eastern Canada during the summer, returning to Europe with salted fish in the autumn. Later, the fisherman settled permanently in Canada, exporting their salted wares overseas. With fishing, however, came many marine disasters, as small fishing vessels were sometimes caught unaware by storms. Although the number of deaths in each incident is relatively small compared to the losses sustained in many mining disasters, the losses were frequent and constant.
Of course, fishing disasters are not the only kind of marine disaster to be commemorated in song. Passenger vessels, such as The Atlantic, also sank. Although far fewer passenger than fishing vessels sank, there were far greater casualties.
We also include the Ocean Ranger disaster in this category. Although it was an oil platform rather than a boat, it was a marine structure. Its sinking killed 84 people.
There are dozens, if not hundreds, of marine disaster songs from Atlantic Canada. To constrain the project and make it more manageable, we chose to work with disasters for which we had more than one song. Sometimes, however, we thought we had two songs but after we located the lyrics, we realized we really had two versions of the same song. That is why some disasters listed here have only one song associated with them. In other cases, people heard about our project and contacted us directly; in those cases, because we could interview the contact person, we chose to include their songs even though there may have been no other songs about the disaster in question.
For the sake of manageability again, we decided not to include songs about deliberate combat or murder. Therefore, you will not find any of the many songs about ships lost during wars, especially World War II. It is sometimes difficult, however, to draw the line between “war” songs and “non-war” songs. For example, should we include songs about fishing vessels that went missing during WWII and which were presumably torpedoed, even though we actually have no evidence that that is the case? Should we include the numerous songs about The Caribou, a civilian passenger ferry travelling between Cape Breton and Newfoundland that was torpedoed? We have had to draw what has sometimes been an arbitrary line between songs to include and songs to exclude.
Of course, there are dozens and dozens of other maritime disaster songs. With any luck, we might some day get more of them posted here!