Designated in 2010 as a Distinctive Cultural Tradition or Practice.


Town of Isle aux Morts for Ann Harvey

Renews-Cappahayden Development & Preservation Committee for Captain William Jackman

Town of St. Lawrence for the men of St. Lawrence and Lawn

Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are people of the sea. In the centuries following sustained European contact, the highly indented coastline became home to a scattering of settlements, often separated by treacherous geographic features, a coastline made all the more perilous by unpredictable weather and prolonged cold temperatures. Add to this the proximity to Newfoundland and Labrador of trade routes between Europe and North America, the historic lack of lighthouses, inadequate charting, and the relatively late introduction of dedicated search and rescue facilities, and it is not surprising that the coastlines of this province have been the sites of an inordinate number of shipwrecks. The total number has been estimated at 10,000-15,000. Many of these shipwrecks have gone unrecorded. Of those we do know something about, the details surrounding them are often scarce or unreliable. For some, however, authenticated stories have emerged. And in a few dramatic incidences, these stories involve exceptional displays of courage on the part of individuals onshore who put their own lives at risk in their attempts to save the lives of those aboard the wrecked vessels.

In the years since its inception, the Provincial Historic Commemorations Program has received several nominations for single incidents of “rescue at sea”. While as single incidents, these events and the people associated with them would not qualify under the program as events with province-wide impact, together they suggest a common cultural practice that is significant and unique. With this in mind, the provincial government is recognizing “Rescue at Sea and the Heroism associated with such Events” as a “distinct cultural practice or tradition”. This year, three nominations under this designation are being commemorated:

In 1828 at Isle aux Morts, George Harvey, his seventeen-year-old daughter, Ann, and his twelve-year-old son, Tom, with a hurricane still raging, rescued in excess of 150 people from The Despatch. The Irish immigrant ship was left stranded on the offshore reefs on which it ran aground and broke apart. Harvey was awarded a medal by the Royal Humane Society of Great Britain, which he promptly turned over to his daughter, the heroine of the rescue. In 1838, the Harveys again displayed their courage, this time in the rescue of 25 crewmen following the wreck of The Rankin. These events and particularly the courage of Ann Harvey have been nominated by the Town of Isle aux Morts.

In 1867, at Spotted Islands, Labrador, Captain William Jackman of Renews swam from the shore for a distance of approximately 500 ft / 152 m (by some accounts, 400 yd / 365 m) and back again to rescue one by one, the 27 people aboard the fishing schooner Sea Clipper which had struck a reef during an October storm. The first 11 were rescued without additional aid; for the remainder Jackman had use of a rope and was assisted by other men onshore. In recognition of his near superhuman effort, he was awarded a silver medal by the Royal Humane Society of Great Britain. Captain William Jackman has been nominated by the Renews-Cappahayden Development & Preservation Committee.

In 1875, at Horrid Gulch, near Pouch Cove, Alfred Moores and four other men of Pouch Cove put their lives at great risk to rescue people stranded on a ledge following the wreck of the Waterwitch, which was travelling from St. John’s to Cupids. With Moores in the lead, the men lowered themselves by rope in the cold and darkness of a November night down the face of a 600-foot cliff to positions where they could gain footholds. Then Moores (three-quarters of the way down) lowered more rope, allowing those on the ledge to climb one by one up the cliff, with the assistance of all five men. In recognition of these deeds, Moores was awarded a silver medal by the Royal Humane Society, and the four others were awarded bronze medals. This rescue event off the coast of Pouch Cove (added to the designation in 2011) is deemed significant as it remains part of the province’s cultural identity, having inspired a number of well-known songs and other creative works.

In 1942 at Chambers Cove and Lawn Point, the men of St. Lawrence and Lawn lowered themselves over the icy cliffs following a February storm that sent two U.S. Navy vessels – the USS Truxtun and USS Pollux – to their doom on the rocks of the cove. 186 sailors were rescued and 203 perished. A monument commemorating the event, titled “Echoes of Valour,” stands in St. Lawrence today. This event has been nominated by the Town of St. Lawrence.

LEARN MORE > Commemorations Research Paper – Rescue at Sea and the Heroism Associated with these Events, by Kevin Major