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Death On The Ice: The Great Newfoundland Sealing Disaster Of 1914

3.85  ·  Rating Details ·  357 Ratings  ·  38 Reviews
Each year, for generations, poor, ill-clad Newfoundland fisherman sailed out 'to the ice' to hunt seals in the hope of a few penniew in wages from the prosperous merchants of St. John's.The year 1914 witnessed the worst in the long line of tragedies that were part of their harsh way of life.

For two long, freezing days and nights a party of seal hunters--one hundred thirty-
Paperback, 256 pages
Published February 29th 1988 by Doubleday Canada (first published January 1st 1972)
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Newfoundland Reads
8th out of 153 books — 48 voters
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Non-fiction Disaster Books
48th out of 117 books — 168 voters

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Community Reviews

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Oct 05, 2013 Erin rated it it was amazing
A quick read about a specific event that sheds light on quite a bit of Newfoundland's labor, social, and cultural history. Cassie Brown provides enough information about how and why sealers do what they do, and under what conditions, for the lay person to follow along without boring us. Although this is nonfiction, it reads as a novel, and you'll feel the tension mounting every time someone makes a decision or assumption that you know will lead to the deaths of so many men. The magnitude of what ...more
Feb 03, 2013 Diane rated it really liked it
I read this years ago as part of my high school curriculum. Even though all those years have passed I still remember the haunting story this book entails. Great read!
Jun 27, 2013 Elsabe rated it it was amazing
Incredibly haunting look into history.
Nicola Mansfield
Oct 07, 2010 Nicola Mansfield rated it really liked it
Reason for Reading: I read the book a long time ago and knew it was a good read.

This book is a chilling tale of how 132 men were stranded for two days and nights during a freezing storm on the ice-fields of the North Atlantic with only one-third of them surviving to be rescued. First, though, it is the story of the harsh life of the early 20th century Newfoundland fisherman who scraped a living from the sea. Fishing when it was warm and sealing at the end of a long winter when the money was dire
Luke Sayese
Dec 05, 2015 Luke Sayese rated it really liked it
Cassie Brown takes us through the sealing disaster of the ship Newfoundland in 1914 with "Death on the Ice" that saw the deaths of hundreds of sealers mainly due to the negligence and ignorance of commanding officers. Despite its historical content, the book actually reads more like a novel rather than an academic work of history. Given that Brown's background as a novelist and poet, this is not surprising. Nonetheless it still is very valid as an important book on the plight of the working ...more
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, sealing, the slaughter of baby harp seals for their pelts and their fat, was a way of life for Newfoundlanders. Always in debt to their employers, for the men never made enough each season to come in the clear financially, the sealers nevertheless enjoyed going to the ice each spring in hopes that they would finally strike the seal equivalent of the mother lode. But in 1914, instead of riches and wealth, the poorly dressed, poorly equipped, poorly fed (sealers ...more
Suzanne Skelly
Apr 13, 2014 Suzanne Skelly rated it it was amazing
I found this to be an absolutely fascinating read. A different time and a different place but a true story.

Ill-clad Newfoundland fisherman who each year for generations had sailed out "to the ice" to hunt seals in hopes of a few pennies in wages from the prosperous merchants, it was the worst disaster in a long line of tragedies that were part of this harsh way of life. Through a stupid misunderstanding 120 men were left stranded on an ice field floating in the North Atlantic for two long freezi
Jun 30, 2010 Kristen rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2010
The story of sealing (that would be slaughtering baby seals for the skins primarily during the cold and nasty spring months up towards the North Pole) is fairly grim, but then add in an unexpected spring storm, greed, and the lack of modern cold weather gear and safety regulations and you get a gripping tale of survival and death on the ice.

This is a true story that occurred off the coast of Labarador and New Foundland in 1914. The first few chapters set up the book and introduce a myriad of ch
Jul 11, 2016 Stephanie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Showing in harsh truth the reality of the conditions that the sealers of Newfoundland had to endure during the early 1900's. The greed and power of a select few that controlled Newfoundland for so very long was shown in a real and accurate way. A true story, that will leave it's mark on you long after you read it.

This is the best book I have ever read! That is a big statement I know but honestly this book was amazing!

I think this is a book that everyone should read, it is suspenseful, thrilling
May 18, 2014 Wisewebwoman rated it really liked it
Shelves: good, book-club
Extraordinary heart-wrenching true story of the lives of the sealers, victims of greedy merchants and heartless captains who were put out on the ice in 1914 and abandoned in brutal conditions, with inadequate clothing and hardly any food. Cassie documents the story really well, it reads like a thriller and the pace is riveting. The only fault I had with it is that it ended so quickly. I would have like to have read more about the lives of their families afterwards.

I love how she captured the br
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Noelle Walsh
Jan 20, 2014 Noelle Walsh rated it it was amazing
Shelves: newfoundland
I read this book for the first time in high school and fell in love with my cultural literature through this novel. It's a story about the olden days of the seal hunt when things were more dangerous (and before killing the pups was made illegal in 1987) and a tale of survival on the ice. It's a touching tale of death, survival, hope and loss. A must-read for all.
May 01, 2010 Danielle rated it liked it
So I had to read this for school. And honestly, it took me the longest time to get into it. But once you get into it, like past the picture section, it's really good! The beginning was so dragged on and boring though. And a tad confusing, with all the names and whatever. But like I said, after the Newfoundland men are stranded, it gets better.
Dec 04, 2013 Samantha rated it really liked it
It was a little hard to get into this book at first mostly because I was waiting for the disaster that eventually sends the men out on the ice. However, that's also what made it a great book. You feel for these men who are sent out by people who only care about their profit margin. It was a great read about an unfortunately piece of Newfoundland history.
Aug 17, 2013 Jess rated it it was amazing
A true story account of a sealing disaster. Reading about the conditions the men worked in and had to live through made me thoroughly glad to have modern day things. Also made me cold just reading about the men stuck on the ice.
Dec 04, 2015 Karen rated it really liked it
At first I found the all the names of the ships and men overwhelming. I didn't realize there was an appendix. Once the narrative took over, I found it to be quite engrossing. Very tragic, but engrossing.
Pooch Parsons
Dec 14, 2013 Pooch Parsons rated it it was amazing
Cassie Brown vividly takes readers back in time to one of the worst seal-hunting disasters in Newfoundland's history. I felt like I was there with the sealers in the boat and freezing on the ice, as weather conditions and hope for survival deteriorated. This book is a timeless classic.
Annie Grigg
Aug 16, 2015 Annie Grigg rated it really liked it
Amazing book about the tragedy of the seal industry. So full of fact and what they went through that it was completely heartbreaking. I wish that this was just a story and not an event that actually occurred.
Rhonda Sarantis
Oct 14, 2014 Rhonda Sarantis rated it really liked it
Wow--another book about a maritime disaster! I had no idea how brutal life was for so many trying to eke out a living from the sea. This book was based upon testimonies from survivors so it is extremely accurate.
Eva Eva
Jan 13, 2011 Eva Eva rated it it was amazing
It painted an amazing picture of Newfoundlands landscape and culture in 1914 as well as it is true Canadian history
Jun 09, 2009 Lynn rated it it was amazing
I read this book about 20 years ago. Names have faded but the horror those men faced stayed with me. I shall pick it up again.
Aug 17, 2016 Emily rated it liked it
Well-written account of a horrible avoidable tragedy. Continuing the theme of high powers treating the poorest Newfoundlanders as disposable.
Kyla Squires
Incredible. Read it pretty much in one sitting. Even though I knew the outcome, had to keep reading. Also makes you mad.
K. Flory
K. Flory rated it liked it
Mar 21, 2015
Jennifer rated it it was ok
May 20, 2010
Dwayne Betts
Dwayne Betts rated it liked it
Aug 09, 2016
Josh Bragg
Josh Bragg rated it liked it
Aug 15, 2011
Rebecca rated it did not like it
Aug 29, 2012
Anne Mulkeen Murray
Anne Mulkeen Murray rated it liked it
Nov 22, 2013
Susan Mouland
Susan Mouland rated it liked it
Feb 01, 2012
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