(St. John’s, NL: 31 Mar 2014) The 100th anniversary of the 1914 sealing disasters was recognized today with a commemorative service held in St. John’s and organized by the Home from the Sea campaign, which was initiated by the Elliston Heritage Foundation in 2008 to build awareness about this important date in provincial history.

Today we owe much to the legacy of the Newfoundlanders and Labradorians of earlier generations. Despite the hardships, they found the ways and means to wrest life from a challenging sea. Their determination and their capacity for innovation survives today in the many industries whose focus in on the North Atlantic and beyond.

Among those industries based on our history of marine innovation is ocean technology (OT). And the OT sector, as an emerging and sustainable cluster is, in part, built on that legacy. However as  tragedies at sea continue to remind us, our spirit of innovation and our international leadership in harsh environments come at a price. One of the heaviest prices ever demanded of Newfoundland and Labrador were the sealing disasters of 1914, events so dramatically recreated in Cassie Brown’s powerful book, “Death on the Ice.”

Today`s 100th annual commemoration took place at George Street United Church in St. John’s. Among those in attendance was the Honourable Keith Hutchings, Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.  In a release after the service he is quoted as saying that he was there to join with others in this service “to remember those sealers who were lost in the 1914 disasters, and to reflect on the dangers faced by those working at sea” 

On March 30, 1914, sealers departing from the SS Newfoundland were lost in a blizzard, while on the same day, more sealers perished when the SS Southern Cross sank while returning to St. Lawrence. In total, more than 250 lives were lost. These tragedies had a profound impact throughout the province that resonates today, and through the Home From the Sea campaign, they will be honoured with a memorial statue designed by artist Morgan MacDonald, an educational interpretation centre, and a walking path, all scheduled to be completed this year. The provincial government has pledged $0.5M in support of that initiative.

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Media contact: This post is based in large part on a release authored by the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture. For more information: Jason Card, Director of Communications, Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture; 709-729-3733, 699-0470; jasoncard@gov.nl.ca