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Wreck of the steamer "Jeannie"
September 1910

 

 

Wreck of the steamer "Jeannie" in September 1910

Originally Published by The Daily News
St. John's, Newfoundland
Jan. 28, 1911

 

SAILORS STRIVE WITH LANDSMEN IN RACE FROM NORTHLANDS

The crew of the wrecked steamer "Jeannie” which dashed on the rocks at Wager inlet accepts Defi (challenge) of Bachard party and starts on 800 mile mush to Gimili - emotions of Contest make weather beaten travellers forget hardships and steel them to endurance.

If ever eight men were buffeted by fate and thrown by a series of untoward incidents into a state where they humbly folded their hands and asked "What next?" it was the crew of the auxiliary schooner "Jeannie" of Newfoundland who landed in Winnipeg just before noon Jan. 27th.

Shipwrecked and cast away along the bleak coast of Hudson Bay, up under the eaves of the continent was but an item in their adventure. After five months of weary waiting and wandering, they are here in Winnipeg, transferred to the heart of the continent like veritable fish on dry land. They are so completely dead broke that they were unable to pay their fares out of Gimili on Monday, and that, and for no other reason was why they stayed there. At that point, the Mounted Police jurisdiction ceased and it was necessary to go through the customary red tape to secure Government assistance.

REPORT TO OTTAWA

Yesterday, on the arrival of the train from Gimili, they filed into the office of Bruce Walker, Immigration Commissioner, who immediately proceeded to look after their needs and to report the exigencies of their case to Ottawa. There is all of courage, romance and adventure connected with the trip of these men through the Silence of the White North, but there is pathos too, for down in the little town of Brigus, Newfoundland, wives and children and relatives had all but given up hope of the return of the Seamen who left here in June expecting to return in three months. The first glad word went to them from Gimili and within a few hours, the joyous response was flashed back over the wires'

Three of the men have wives and families depending upon them. James Way, 42 years of age, who went with Peary four times in the Search of the North Pole left a wife and five children behind. The eldest only 12 years old. Michael Tucker, who was on the "Jeannie when they brought back Harry Whitney from Greenland, Ieft a young wife, and Fred Jarrett, the Engineer, aged 26, Left a wife and two children'

Of the others, John Morrissey, aged 25, left an aged mother, and as he was her sole support, he is greatly worried about her'

After struggling hardships and disaster that few men have faced and which terminated with a gruelling walk of 800 miles across a frozen wilderness, the men have still to face the debts contracted by their families during their absence, and to make up for the months of, time wasted.

With the exception of the Captain" all of the men were considered common seamen who shipped for a three months cruise at $30 per month and board. Before starting" they were advanced a months pay and as the wreck occurred after they were two months out, they have a scant $30 or $40 coming to them.

As for Captain Bartlett, the quiet unemotional young man still in his twenties who for the first time guided his Craft through the shoals of Hudson Bay, loss is complete, for he owned a share in the vessel which went on the rocks. This summer $600 was spent on her and $1000 was expended for overhauling. There was no Insurance.

One of the crew, who trudged with stout heart mile after mile on the way from Churchill to Gimili, and never uttered a whimper when limbs became numbed and cutting winds cut into him, was a mere lad of twenty "Kenneth French” a ruddy cheeked squared jaw boy, shipwrecked, the first voyage for which he ever signed articles.

He is a chip off the old block for his father was a sailing master before him. The other seamen were James Dooling, able bodied seaman who had spent 20 years before the mast travelling to many parts of the world and James Janes, the second engineer, aged 22,

Dooling, both of whose cheeks were decorated with frost bites as large as half dollars gave a graphic description of the wreck in "Jones Cove". This is the worst coast I have seen in all my experience" he said, and that was the worse wreck I was ever in. I was wrecked off Hatte once, but the conditions were tame compared to this one. I tell you, the Devil pretty nearly had us. Some of them prayed, but I didn’t. I was too far gone at any rate. I believe in praying before hand."

They told about old Stephen Antle, the first mate, aged 68, who was left behind at Fort Churchill. He too left the little town of Brigus, Newfoundland, on a sunny day last June, bearing a son and daughter. They will not see him for many months.

GRIT AND DETERMINAIION

They were not the kind of men that one would expect to see coming out of the far North. They could not be called prototype of the hardy Norsemen, but while they were the type of the quiet fisher folk that made their living from the sea, it was at once apparent that they had the attributes of grit and determination that win. They were not attired in the habitaments of the sea, bur they bore the indelible stamp of the man who earns his living around Salt water" They said that the clothes they wore, were all they had to their name.

Their faces were worn and drab with exposure. Two of the men carried away as mementos, the crude Indian-made snow shoes turned up at the end, which had borne them across the waste of snow. One man only, in the party, possessed an overcoat. All wore moccasins of deer skin and wore rough caps covered with hair that straggled down to a ruff behind the ears.

STORY OF SUFFERING

It was not easy to penetrate the reserve of these quiet men, but when it was pierced, they unfolded a story of struggle with the forces of nature that was crowded with exciting incidents.

Jim Way, the man who explored with Peary for four years, going north with him for fifteen months on the last trip, was the principal narrator - "None of us had ever been in the Bay before," he said, but our Captain had no difficulty navigating although I never saw such a dangerous coast. There were shoals for ten or fifteen miles out from the shore. Our schooner was operating with gasoline, and we made pretty good time. We had Just about finished our work about 100 mitres north of Fullerton, when we saw the storm coming, and put for the likeliest cove we could see. We anchored about a mile off shore as the water was shallow and very soon the waves began to roll, and the storm struck us.

"It began to snow hard and the deck became covered with ice. It was about the dirtiest weather I was ever in, and the schooner pitched and rolled so hard, that we thought every minute that the anchor chains would break. As the day wore on, it began to look very serious and some prayed that the cable would break before darkness struck us. It was about 10:30p.m when the storm was at its height, when the chain to the Starboard anchor parted. We then got out the Kedge and payed 40 fathoms. After the port chain slackened, we payed away on the Kedge and lost the end off it.

The tide was running high and to keep from drifting on shore, we hoisted the jumbo to bear her off and then we hoisted the foresail. All of this was done with the water breaking over the deck, a snow storm so black, you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. We had no light for the wind was so strong, you could not keep a lantern lit.

VESSEL STRIKES

Then we struck. It was a sound Io make you sick to your stomach, and we thought it was all up with us. The shore was strewn with big boulders and I guess these were under the water too, for we bumped two or three times and the vessel shivered as if she were going to pieces. Before this, we had lost our small launch and our whale boat and had nothing with which to get to shore. All night long, we stayed on deck numbed through and through with the cold, expecting the vessel to go to pieces at any moment. She was badly listed on one side and partly filled with water. The waves dashed over and drenched us,

In the morning, the storm was still raging, but it was abating. We stayed with the ship four days before we could land, two at a time, in a small canoe. During these four days, we got little sleep as there were only two bunks that were not under water, and we took turns sleeping in them.

SAVED LITTLE

We got off the boat with only what we had on, for the boats were too small to take anything but ourselves and sufficient food to maintain us. We found the whale boat and the launch on shore and mended them with canvas and then we started for Fullerton, 100 miles away. It took us three days to make it and this was the most exciting part of all our adventures. Some of the time, we were out of sight of land, with heavy sea running, and we were obliged to keep three men bailing all the time in each boat. There were 15 of us.

The story of the trip on snowshoes from Churchill to Gimili is but is a story in itself, but is a thrilling narrative of pluck and endurance. The men say that the Mounted Police intend to take a census of the Esquimaux in the North this winter.

A BATTLE OF ENDURANCE

The story of the terrible march of Bachard and his outfit from Churchill to Gimili was told yesterday. The incentive which carried eighteen tender- feet safely through the trials which have killed hundreds of men. It was the inborn spirit of mankind - "combat", for there was a challenge from the tender footed land lubbers of Bachard to the salts of Bartlett. Bartlett’s men won, but Bachard’s men broke the trail for 25 miles over unbeaten snow and on this stretch, the sailors gained three days on them. When Bachard’s outfit left Churchill on Dec. 4th, they threw back the "defi” – “we’ll beat you to it.” (to Bartlett’s men) You won’t", was the answer echoed to them and the battle was on. The result was an illustration of how one incentive rose up and predominated over pain of cold and aches of travel - an illustration of men seeking diversion from a heart-rending reality, and finding it in the old way' by physical struggle.

TERRIBLE STORM

Staunch of heart, the boys are back in civilization, and the North is robbed, temporarily at Ieast, of eight lives which it sought to take in one of the wildest seas in the history of the west coast of Hudson Bay. It was a storm which raged for eight days, buffeting two tiny boats on its billows, filling them with water and inviting the occupants to dessert life in the turbulent depths. Captain Bartlett of the wrecked schooner is a quiet and unassuming little man of 28 years - "Are you married, Captain?" he was asked, I’m not, thank God." was the reply, but the Captain probably gave thanks because his life carried him away from his native shore so often, and not because he abhorred matrimony.

AN EPIC OF THE NORTH

The Captain started at the beginning and told the story, but he refused to divulge a piece of verse which he wrote in the northland, describing the wreck of which professor Macown said “its real verse and no doggerel', but the poet declined publicity. He said, "We left Sydney on July 17th, expecting to return by October. It was quite easy to navigate to Churchill, but coming through the narrows, we discovered no end of errors that appeared on the map, and we had to go around islands that were not chartered. Shoal water was frequently encountered, but Churchill was reached Aug. 13th, and we were ready to leave for the North a day later, but we were delayed until Aug, 24th.

DELAY RESPONSIBILITY

If it hadn’t been for that delay, we never would have been wrecked, for we would have been out in the open waters where the storm would nor have hurt us. The Governor General was coming up and Major
Stornes could not come north with us until he, the Governor, was shipped homeward on the steamer "Earl Gray". That delayed us for seven days. We reached Rankin Inlet Aug 11th, and that night our boat ran aground in a heavy gale. We hauled her off by morning and left in the height of the gale* through to Rankin Shoals.

On Sept. 7th at night, we reached Wager Inlet and we put up in one of the travellers' homes. Before we finished, a squall blew up and in a few hours, it had changed to a terrible gale. The Bay rose and broke in heavy billows, tossing the "Jeannie" until her chains groaned.
The crew remained on board with Prof. Macoun, Constable Janes and three huskies. It was zero weather, but the intensify of the gale made it seem much colder. All during the day of the eighth, there was no abatement. We stayed on the ship, but she tossed and cracked until we knew that our only hope of saving the ship and perhaps our lives was the chance that the storm would cease. The little schooner stood fast that day but at 10 p.m the following night, her last chain broke and she dashed onto the rocks and vas stove in.

We put to sea in two tiny boats that were battered and damaged, taking nothing but a few provisions and the log with us, and Prof. Macoun’s specimens. We knew that if we reached Fullerton, we would have to have supplies for the winter, hence we had to sacrifice everything else, but that was not hard as we were not sure of getting to Fullerton.

Some small pieces of nautical armament went with us, but the compass was of no use in the territory, the needle becoming polarized and refused to work accurately. Shallow water along the coast line took us at times, out of sight of land, and the boats were so badly battered with ice that three men were constantly busy with buckets bailing out the water. Despite the untoward weather and needless cruising, the party reached Fullerton 200 miles away in less then three days.

During our travel, out boat sails served at night to make tents. We got out alright and are thankful, but we lost everything we had. If we had stayed another day at Wager Inlet, the bay would have been full of ice and our boats, which had already been badly damaged, would never have carried us back to Fullerton, where the “Clifford” took us on board and brought us to Churchill.

It was a weird, wild, plight, but we pulled out with our lives and were lucky,

To our boys, I guess the march from Churchill was worse than the storm because they were used to rough weather but not to snowshoes.

That man "Macoun” was the boy! He helped us we are grateful from the bottom of our hearts. Corporal Walker brought us out over the first long mush from Churchill to Split Lake. They taught us to handle snowshoes, to walk and run on them and gave us courage, by watching.

By their example, unless it is Corporal Walker, I don’t think there is another man up there who could handle the shoes and show us as much endurance as Prof. Macoun. He was always with us brimming with what was at least superficial confidence and he inspired us to do the work. He was years older than we were but he could run from morning until night over the snow on his impoverished feet. A man, Like Macoun, is the kind of man you need when you are in a hole like that!

THE MOUNTED POLICE

But we have gratitude for more than Prof. Macoun, The Mounted Police, the Hudson Bay men and the Esquimaux treated us as white as any man could ask. We were broke and up against it, but were among the right kind of people.

Captain Bartlett from his demeanour was sorely touched by losing his vessel. It vas valued at about $6500 and was a 90 footer with engine auxiliary,

It is still crumbled on the trackless waste of water around Wager Inlet and will never be salvaged.

 

 

Page contributed by Chris Robinson and Bill March (2017 02)

Page Last Updated March 04, 2017 (Craig Peterman)

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