L’ANSE AUX MEADOWS, NL – The SS Langleecrag ran ashore on Great Sacred Island, off L’Anse aux Meadows, on a cold and windy morning, before dawn.
That was Nov. 15, 1947 – 70 years to the day.
The 6,000-ton vessel was en route from England to Montreal to take on a load of grain.
According to a 1987 Northern Pen article by Bern Bromley, as the ship approached the entrance to the Strait of Belle Isle, its mate mistook the light at Cape Bauld for the Cape Norman light and, shortly thereafter, ran the vessel onto Sacred Island.
“She immediately broke in two at number three hatch,” third officer Jack Wylie recalled in the 1987 article.
“We didn’t have radar or anything like that, and you know what the weather’s like up there at that time of year – it’s not very good, misty, rain,” the now 90-year-old Wylie, who today lives on the Isle of Wight in the United Kingdom, told the Northern Pen over the phone.
As the 1987 article states, two of the 44 people onboard the Langleecrag lost their lives that day.
The others waited for daylight and then, using a makeshift bosun’s chair, were carried onto the rocky shore safely.
Wylie had joined the Langleecrag a few weeks earlier after serving on another of the Medomsley Shipping Company’s vessels.
He celebrated his 20th birthday onboard the ship.
“Fairly traumatic when you’re 20 years of age, to have something like this happen,” he said.
A whale catcher rescued the crew five days later.
The Langleecrag still rests there today
Remembering the local generosity
Wylie and the other 41 crewmembers were stuck on the Great Northern Peninsula for two weeks.
Wylie was housed at the orphanage in St. Anthony. He remembers the generosity of the people there and wished to thank them.
“It’s always in my mind, actually,” he said. “The people were very nice to us. You appreciate that. This was a very isolated place; they didn’t have a road there. With winter coming on, they had to have all their supplies in for the winter and suddenly they’re dumped with 41 extra people. And they looked after us very well.”
Wylie says there wasn’t much to do during their stay, except meet up at the local grocery store.
The passenger ship, the SS Kyle (which later grounded itself in 1967 in Harbour Grace), picked up the men and brought them to Twillingate.
“It was on its last trip for the winter and it was bringing all the fishermen down from Labrador,” Wylie recalled.
From there, a train brought them to St. John’s, where they headed home to the United Kingdom.
Wylie visited the Great Northern Peninsula again in 1987 with his wife, Judy, who has since passed away.
At the time, he took a long liner out to Great Sacred Island to see the remains of the Langleecrag.
“We stayed at a motel in St. Anthony – there were no motels there in 1947,” he said. “And people were very good to us then too. They arranged, through a fisherman, to run out to the ship.
“Unfortunately, we couldn’t land because of bad weather, but we saw it from the (long liner).”