1917 Mina Swim

The very first person I interviewed for this project was Colin Waye who is not a songwriter himself, but who let me know about a song about the loss of the fishing schooner, the Mina Swim, in 1917. Most of the crew of the Mina Swim were relatives of Mr. Waye’s. The story of the Mina Swim and the lyrics of the song can be found online at a memorial website. But for the sake of convenience, I can provide a quick summary of the story of the Mina Swim.

The 82ft 60 ton fishing vessel, owned by LeFeuvre Brothers, carried 10 dories and sailed from Bull’s Cove, on the Burin Peninsula in Newfoundland, with a crew of about twenty-three (reports vary in the number of crew) on February 17, 1917. The ship was never seen again. No debris was ever found, nor any bodies. A significant storm occurred that same night the Mina Swim set sail, although the schooner had weathered such storms before and the captain (Colin Waye’s grandfather), John Jarvis, was experienced. Did it go down in the storm? Or did a German U-boat torpedo the schooner? German submarines were known to lurk around the Burin’s shores and they were at their height in early 1917. German bombs officially sank at least a dozen fishing schooners in the area. Or perhaps the Mina Swim struck a floating mine, although Robert Parsons, a Newfoundland shipping historian, does not believe this likely as the Mina Swim’s fishing route was not a frequented sea lane and was therefore of little interest to the Germans.

I debated whether to include the story of the Mina Swim on this website since it’s possible that it was sunk as an act of war. We have deliberately excluded songs of intentional death, including songs of war and murder. But since we cannot confirm that the Mina Swim was indeed torpedoed or bombed, I have decided to add it to the site.

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3 responses to “1917 Mina Swim”

  1. Colin Waye says:

    There never really was a theory that the Mina Swim was a victim of war. This was only a hands up in the air “supposition”. I have been collecting all pertinent material and believe it was rammed by an ocean going liner. Need to tie a few more ends together, them release it.
    However this is the biggest clue. Evening Telegram Feb. 17, 1917 page 5
    Sch. Crashed into Oceanliner
    A steamer arrived here yesterday from a transatlantic port, reported that on Monday night in a driving snowstorm, when she was on the Grand Banks, she was run into by a sailing vessel. The steamer was going through the storm at a fair rate of speed at the time when suddenly without warning a dark shape loomed up to starboard and a few seconds later there was a crash. The sailing vessel struck the steamer heavily about midships then disappeared into the gloom. The steamers engines were immediately stopped and for eleven hours she searched the vicinity but could find no trace of the sailing vessel.
    It was so dark that it was impossible for those on board the steamer to tell the identity of the schooner when she struck, but it is thought that she may have been a fishing vessel. It is hoped that she will be reported in a day or so as having arrived at a Newfoundland port with a broken bowsprit and somewhat damaged bow, but otherwise none the worse for the collision. On the other hand it is possible that the force of the impact smashed into the schooner’s bows clear to the waterline and that she sank like a stone. The steamer had her plates slightly dented and it will be necessary to replace a few rivets. Halifax Chronicle.
    (this article seems to have been picked up by the Evening Telegram or it was sent to them, from the Halifax Chronicle?)
    my note *(this seems to be the most likely fate of the Mina Swim)

  2. Heather Sparling says:

    Thank you so much, Colin, for weighing in! I read the article you quote, but wondered how we could be sure that it had hit the Mina Swim?

  3. Colin Waye says:

    19 May 2021
    Checking your site again after your recent talk (zoom).
    Now I am positive that the Mina Swim was the vessel that was rammed and sunk. The timing was right and there was no other ships reported hit or missing. This would mean the accident happened shortly after leaving port. Therefore no one would even be looking for them. Ships were away for extended periods of time.They did find some floating debris also. The other stories that were mentioned are the ones which contain no facts at all.When the story, about the accident, was actually published, no one was even thinking of the Mina Swim because it was not listed as missing at that time, they were thought to be still out fishing. There was no local paper at that time either and the article I quoted would not have been seen in the local area. So the other stories about wartime casualty or storms came up only as possibilities, without support. I have studied this case for years now and stand by my conclusion unless there is any evidence contrary.

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