Karyl's Reviews > Death On The Ice: The Great Newfoundland Sealing Disaster Of 1914

Death On The Ice by Cassie Brown
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's review
Feb 04, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: goodreads-suggestions, library-reads, interlibrary-loans, 2012, non-fiction, survival-disaster
Read from February 03 to 04, 2012

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 usually subsisted on nothing more than hard tack and tea during a run) men of the Newfoundland found themselves abandoned on the ice just before a massive spring storm hit. Each ship in the area assumed the men had made it safely to another ship, and due to the lack of a wireless set on the Newfoundland, there was no way to confirm that the men had made it back. Instead, one hundred and thirty-two men were left to wander among pans of ice in freezing temperatures with gale force winds and driving snow and rain. Some fell in to the water between the ice floes. Shelters were erected but could not protect the men sufficiently. Two-thirds of the men on the ice died during the two days and two nights they spent on the ice. Had the Newfoundland still had her wireless (it had been removed as unprofitable the year before), the deaths would have been averted. This is a chilling account of how greed and wealth can lead to easily avoided human tragedy and disaster.

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