On This Day: Newfoundland Sealing Disaster (March 30, 1914)
Caught in a sudden spring blizzard, 78 sealers died on an ice shelf off the northern Newfoundland coast. The S.S. Stephano, captained by an inexperienced man named Westbury Kean sent 170 men onto the ice on March 30, 1914.
Most of them crossed the ice to a vessel working a seal patch a few miles away. Later that day, the ship’s captain ordered all men back to their own ship. Both captains thought that the men were safely on board the other's ship when a ferocious spring storm struck that evening. The sealers spent two nights exposed to howling winds and freezing sleet before another ship stumbled across the desperate survivors. The Newfoundland disaster caused a storm of controversy in its wake and forever changed sealing practices in Canada.