The View From Fogo Island

Benson Hewitt
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The SS Resolute Sinks off Fogo Island, 1886

For the month of April I thought I’d write a few pieces on sealing disasters especially as they affected Fogo Islands and environs.

For the month of April I thought I’d write a few pieces on sealing disasters especially as they affected Fogo Islands and environs.

In doing a little initial research, I came across this paragraph in the Twillingate Sun, dated April 10, 1886. That was only yesterday, for goodness sake! Regardless, Fogo Island was then an exciting place in which to live. This is what a correspondent from Fogo had to say with respect to sealing:

There has been considerable excitement the past fortnight looking out for seals. Friday and Saturday, the 19th and 20th of February were the most successful days for Fogo, including Seldom-Come-By, Island Harbour, and Hare Bay. From four to eight seals per man were secured by about 300 men. Most of the harbour men, including Joe Batt’s Arm and Barr’d Islands being at Little Fogo Islands where they have done better, especially from the Storehouse and eastward, averaging 13-30 seals per man (young seals) with a few old ones only. Unhappily, the seals were a long distance off, 10-12 miles, so that the least wind, or even a calm, prevented their being reached. Seven steamers have been in sight the whole time, slaughtering and panning, of which it is not likely a quarter of them will be got, six flags on bulks being discerned only yesterday (March 29) drifting seaward from Gapby Island, and the steamers jammed in the ice. One of the Dundee fleet, the Resolute, Captain Arthur Jackman, sank very suddenly on Saturday evening, off eastern end of Fogo Island, supposed to have grounded on the shoal Old Ireland, crew barely escaping with their lives.

That last sentence got me wondering if there might be a story on this somewhere, and with a little research I discovered it in an English newspaper. This was the heading:  The Foundering of a Dundee Whaler; Narrow escape of 348 Men

The article began by telling how the SS Sarnia had arrived in Liverpool from Halifax and had landed five men belonging to the Dundee whaler Resolute which had foundered in the Arctic regions, as they described it, and by this disaster three men had lost their lives.

It told that when the steamer began to sink it had on board 348 men, and that the experiences of these men and the scenes on board the Resolute were of the most thrilling nature. (I don’t believe I would have used the word ‘thrilling.’) 

Organizations: Dundee

Geographic location: Fogo Island, Island Harbour, Hare Bay Little Fogo Islands Gapby Island Sarnia Liverpool Halifax Arctic regions Scotland Newfoundland

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