Sealing disasters marked as Elliston memorial opens
A tribute to the scores of men who lost their lives in two separate disasters during a 1914 storm was officially unveiled Thursday in the Newfoundland outport of Elliston.
The Sealers Memorial — a project that was six years in the making — honours the crew of the SS Newfoundland who froze to death in March 1914 when poor communications led them to be stranded in a blizzard, as well as the crew of the SS Southern Cross, which sank in the same storm. In all, 251 sealers died.
A crowd of hundreds stood by solemnly to see the unveiling of two separate memorials: a slab of rock engraved with the names of all the sealers, and a bronze statue depicting the huddled figures of Reuben and Albert John Crewe, a father and son who froze to death in a grim embrace.
"It's very sad to think of the story," said Morgan MacDonald, the sculptor who created the emotion-packed statue.
"Because it's a real story, it's not fiction - it's part of Newfoundland history."
The Home From the Sea memorial site also includes an interpretative centre and a walking path, and is intended to be a permanent honour to not just those who died in the disasters, but generations of fishermen who have taken part in the seal hunt.
Melvin Cole, Reuben Crewe's grandson, found the site inspiring.
"This has been great - fantastic. More than what I ever expected," he said, seeing his family's history turned into art.
"I heard many stories from our table, but never expected to see a gathering like this. It's just wonderful."
Tracy Waite travelled to Elliston, a small town on Newfoundland's Bonavista Peninsula, from New Brunswick to see her long-lost relatives immortalized.
"It is a bit overwhelming, to see all the people here for the unveiling of the statues," she said.
"It's kind of emotional."