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Newfoundland Shipwrecks

The Florizel
The Caribou
The U.S.S. Truxtun and Pollux
The MV William Carson
The Ocean Ranger
The S.S. Patrick Morris
A Map of the Shipwrecks
Some Related Links

1918

The Florizel

The S. S. Florizel was one of the ships of the Red Cross Line owned by Bowering’s of St. John’s, NF.

 

The Florizel was one of the world’s first icebreakers. The ship carried passengers on the St. John’sHalifaxNew York City run. It was also used as a sealing vessel. In 1914 the Florizel transported 500 volunteers of the First Newfoundland Regiment (The Blue Puttees) to the front in heavy seas and headwinds.

 

The ship sailed from St. John’s at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, February 22, 1918 in spite of the fact that a storm was raging outside the snug harbour of St. John’s. The ship had 138 people on board including 78 passengers, among them nine women and six children. Here is what happened:

 

Sunday-February 23

  • 4:40 a.m. The Captain realizes the ship is off course. He tries to correct but the Florizel runs aground at Horn Head Point a short distance from shore. The ship begins to break apart on the rocks. Fishermen from Cappahayden watch from the shore unable to help because of high seas.
  • 11:30 a.m. The Gordon C. and Terra Nova leave St. John’s for Cape Race to help.
  • 12:45 p.m. The Home leaves St. John’s to help.
  • 3:44 p.m. The Hawk leaves St. John’s to help.
  • 4:00 p.m. A group that traveled by train from St. John’s arrives to help but must watch from the shore because of high seas.
  • Dusk: The Gordon C. arrives first, finds no signs of life and returns to Fermeuse.
  • 6:00 a.m. The Home arrives and stays.
  • 9:00 a.m. The Hawk arrives. They see light but are unable to get near The Florizel.

 

Monday-February 24

  • 1:00 a.m. The Prospero arrives from Marystown. They are still unable to reach Florizel. Over 40 survivors are confirmed.
  • 4:00 a.m. The Gordon C. and Terra Nova return. The seas became moderate. 17 passengers and 27 crew members are rescued. 94 people are confirmed dead.

 

A little girl called Betty Munn drowned when the Florizel sank. In Betty’s memory the statue of Peter Pan was placed in Bowring Park for children to enjoy.


1942

The Caribou

In 1942 World War II was well underway and there were many navy ships and merchant supply vessels at anchor in St. John’s harbour.

 

In the city of St. John’s blackout regulations were in force but the people of St. John’s felt safe because the war in Europe was far away.

 

They were badly frightened on October 14, 1942 when news reports revealed that just forty miles southwest of Port-aux-Basques the S.S. Caribou, the Newfoundland ferry, was blasted out of the water by a Nazi U-boat.

 

The Caribou was carrying 237 people of which 46 were crewmembers, 73 were civilians and 118 were military personnel. 136 men, women and children died.

 

Historians describe the sinking as “…an unprovoked, cowardly attack on a defenseless ferry.”

 

For twenty-five years claims were made that there were no records among German documents to show that the Caribou had been sunk. But the U-boat commander did keep a log book and the records were later discovered.

 


1942

U.S.S. Truxtun and U.S.S. Pollux

 

On the night of February 18, 1942 three ships, the U.S.S. Wilkes, the U.S.S. Truxtun and the U.S.S. Pollux were on route to the U. S. Naval Base at Argentia, NF.

 

At 3.50 a.m. on February 18, 1942 the Wilkes was the first to go aground. The Wilkes signaled the Truxton and Pollux to “Emergency Stop” and broadcast “Wilkes aground.”

The Wilkes managed to back off the beach but the Truxtun and the Pollux were not so lucky.

 

Almost at the same time, the U.S.S. Pollux ran aground at Lawn Point and the U.S.S. Truxtun ran aground at Chambers Cove.

 

It was a stormy night with high winds, wild seas and icy winds. Prospects were very dim for the sailors until a group of sailors from the U. S. S. Truxtun managed to reach shore using an inflated rubber raft. One sailor from the U. S. S. Truxtun managed to reach Iron Spring Mine in St. Lawrence, NF.

 

Immediately all work stopped at the mine. The miners and people of Lawn rushed to the scene. Hours of intense rescue followed with the miners using ropes and risking their lives on the ice covered cliffs to save the sailors. They managed to save 183 sailors but despite their courageous efforts 203 American sailors died.

 

In gratitude to the people of St. Lawrence, the American government built the St. Lawrence Memorial Hospital in 1954.

 

In 1992, a monument called “Echoes of Valour” was erected to commemorate the rescue.


 

1977

M. V. William Carson

The M. V. William Carson was the Newfoundland ferry. It was so big that for the first three years it could not sail into Port-aux-Basques harbour so it sailed out of Argentia.

 

Later, the Carson was switched to the Labrador Coastal route. The second season on the Labrador run was the last for the Carson. The ship hit arctic ice and sank on June 3, 1977 off the Labrador coast. The ship was carrying freight to Goose Bay from St. John’s, NF.

 

That night there were 109 crew and 29 passengers on the ship.

 

The crew was calm and professional. All passengers and crew members made it safely away from the sinking ship, many of them shivering in light clothing under their lifejackets. As the passengers and crew watched, some in a life boat, but most on the ice the ship went down bow first, raised her stern briefly in the moonlight and growled almost as though she was angry as she slipped through the pack ice to the bottom.

 

All people on the ship were rescued.

 


 

 

1982

The Ocean Ranger

On February 15, 1982 the self-propelled semi-submersible offshore drilling rig Ocean Ranger capsized and sank in the Hibernia oil field on the Grand Banks.

All 84 crewmen aboard were lost including 69 Canadians, 56 of whom were Newfoundlanders.

The largest of its kind when built in Japan in 1976, the Ocean Ranger had drilled wells in the Bering Sea, the Gulf of Alaska, the Lower Cook Inlet and off the coasts of New Jersey and Ireland before arriving at the Grand Banks late in 1980.

On the night of February 14th a tremendous storm began to lash the oil rig. Eighty foot waves swept across its decks. One of the waves broke the control room port hole and tons of salt water poured over the electrical balance switches. By morning the rig had capsized and all 84 crew perished with no one to rescue them.


 

1970

S.S. Patrick Morris

The S.S. Patrick Morris was built in 1951 and was first used between Cuba and Florida. It went out of service in 1959 because of the Cuban revolution.

In 1965 it became the Newfoundland ferry, sailing from Port-aux-Basques to North Sydney, Nova Scotia.

On April 19, 1970 the Patrick Morris received a mayday call from a fishing boat named the M. F. V. Enterprise. The Patrick Morris headed for the ship and on the way sighted a body. The captain gave the order to back up to pick up the body, but the ship backed into a 30 foot wave.

The captain’s last words were “Boys, I think you better get that (life) boat out as fast as you can. You haven’t much time.”

The giant wave overwhelmed the ship. The Patrick Morris sank stern first. Ships that were answering the first mayday call of the Enterprise picked up the 47 survivors from the Patrick Morris but four crewmembers, including the captain were lost.

A Map of some Newfoundland Shipwrecks

Links

The Sinking of the Patrick Morris

The Ranger in Danger

Disaster of the U.S.S. Truxton and Pollux

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