Death on the Ice – The Story



This song was recorded by Gary Callahan on his album, Death on the Ice: The Ultimate Price (1996, Grand Falls-Windsor, NL).


In the spring of nineteen fourteen, the sealers came to town,
Trying to book a passage on a ship iceward bound;
To try and earn a dollar when none was being made,
They would risk life and limb but they were not afraid.

There was the Bonaventure and the Belleventure, too,
And there was the Newfoundland just waiting for her crew;
There stood the Stephano, what a great ship was she,
And also the Florazelle, a part of this tragedy.

They came from every bay and town, they came both young and old,
They came not for the sport, but came for a little gold;
Maybe if they were lucky, make a hundred or more,
But would they be so eager if they knew what was in store.

Now when they made it to the front the Newfoundland got froze,
She found it hard to maneuver in the heavy ice floes;
Her captain was frustrated, the seals were very scarce,
He never seen it quite so bad, the ice was mighty fierce.

He spotted the Stephano about five miles away,
They were in the main patch and really making it pay;
Then the captain took a chance, sent his men across the ice,
To try and pan some whitecoats but couldn’t foresee the price.

When they reached the Stephano they were hungry and beat,
So Captain Kean took them aboard, gave them a bite to eat;
Then he put them on the ice to head for the Newfoundland,
By this time a storm was brewing, and death was close at hand.

They started for the Newfoundland but soon they were lost,
A blizzard now blew fiercely, they’d soon pay the cost;
More than a hundred thirty men were stranded on the ice,
No one knew that they were there, they’d pay an awful price.

For two days and two nights they suffered on the floes,
With little shelter and little food, in soaking wet clothes;
When the temperature dropped down, their bodies turned to ice,
Seventy-seven men then perished, they paid the ultimate price.

They tried to keep on moving so they would not freeze,
Some died while walking, some died on their knees;
Some grew so weary that they no longer cared,
Some walked out in the water and soon disappeared.

The second day they found them, oh what an awful sight,
Bodies strewn everywhere, survivors in a plight;
Frozen hands and frozen feet, frostbitten on the face,
What caused this dreadful tragedy, what caused this awful waste?

They piled their bodies on the deck several layers high,
Their remains like statues, silhouettes against the sky;
With their gruesome cargo, they headed back to shore,
In a history filled with tragedy, just add one chapter more.


Source: GEST Songs of Newfoundland & Labrador

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