About 50 people gathered at the St. John’s Port Authority for the 99th anniversary of the 1914 sealing disaster on Monday. The event was planned by the group Home from The Sea who are working to get a sculpture commemorating the 1914 disaster and an associated interpretation centre in the town of Elliston on the Bonavista Peninsula.
The group is now just about $125,000 shy of their goal of just under $3-million.
Leo Power, Co-Chair of the campaign, said when you learn so much about the disaster and also get to know relatives of people who died, there are many reminders around of what those people went through.
“What a nightmare it must have been,” he said.
Two separate sealing disasters occurred during a single season 99 years ago. Sealers from the SS Newfoundland became lost in a severe blizzard and were stranded on the ice for over 48 hours. Seventy-eight men perished during the ordeal. In that same storm, another sealing vessel, the SS Southern Cross, disappeared while returning from the Gulf of St. Lawrence. There were no survivors. It has been proposed that this ship sank because it was riding low in the water due to its full hold of seals pelts on board and the storm may have caused it to capsize.
In total, 251 brave sealers perished.
The ceremony on Monday was attended by The Honourable John Crosbie, Patron of the Home from The Sea campaign, Senator Fabian Manning, Minister Felix Collins, as well as clergy of various religious denominations.
Performer Pamela Morgan also sang several songs about the sealing disaster.
The official unveiling of the sculpture and opening of the centre is planned for the 100 anniversary of the sealing disaster in a year’s time.