SS Newfoundland

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SS Newfoundland
SS Newfoundland with Capt.W. Kean.png
SS Newfoundland with portrait of Capt. W. Kean
  • Newfoundland (–1916)
  • Samuel Blandford (1916–)
Owner: Job Brothers & Co., Limited (1915–)
Builder: Peter Baldwin
Launched: 1872
Fate: Wrecked 1916
General characteristics
Type: Sealing ship
Length: 212.5 ft (64.8 m)
Beam: 29.5 ft (9.0 m)
Installed power: Steam
Propulsion: Screw
Sail plan: Brigantine

SS Newfoundland was a sealing ship which lost 78 sealers on the ice during extreme weather conditions in March 1914 which claimed lives from three sealing ships in an event known as the 1914 Newfoundland Sealing Disaster.

1914 Newfoundland Sealing Disaster[edit]

On March 30, 1914, Newfoundland was jammed in the ice. The Captain, Wes Kean, could see signals from ship SS Stephano, commanded by his father Abram Kean, indicating that there were seals several miles away. He sent his crew in that direction to begin killing seals, under command of his first mate, expecting that they would stay overnight in Stephano if the weather worsened. When the men reached Stephano, Abram Kean gave Newfoundland's men lunch and then ordered them back onto the ice to kill seals and find the Newfoundland despite signs of worsening weather. As a storm began that afternoon, both the captain of Newfoundland and the captain of the nearby Stephano thought that the men were safely aboard the other man's vessel. The company which owned Newfoundland had removed the ship's radio transceiver because it was an added expense which did not contribute to profits. Newfoundland's captain, believing that the men were aboard Stephano, did not blow the ship's whistle to signal his location, which would have allowed his men to find the ship in the darkness and rain. The sealers endured two nights without shelter on the ice, first in a freezing rain storm and then in a snow storm.

Carrying survivors and bodies to SS Bellaventure after the SS Newfoundland sealing disaster

The dead and survivors alike were picked up approximately 48 hours later by another ship in the fleet, SS Bellaventure, under Captain Isaac Randell. Of the 132 men aboard Newfoundland, 78 died, and many more were seriously injured.[1] This disaster occurred during the same storm in which SS Southern Cross sank with all hands. The total loss from all three sealing ships totaled over 250 lives and the collective tragedy became known as the 1914 Newfoundland Sealing Disaster.

This event was the subject of the book Death on the Ice by Cassie Brown,[2] and two National Film Board of Canada documentaries: "I Just Didn't Want to Die": The 1914 Newfoundland Sealing Disaster (1991) and the multimedia short 54 Hours (2014).[3][4]

After the 1914 sealing disaster[edit]

She was sold to Job Brothers & Co. in 1915 and her name was changed to Samuel Blandford in 1916.[5] A poem about this was written by James Murphy on January 27, 1916.[6]

The vessel was wrecked when she struck the Keys, near St. Mary's Bay on August 3, 1916.[5]


Another Newfoundland vessel carried the name Newfoundland for many years afterwards. This steel steam-liner was mobilized as part of the merchant navy and during peace time acted as a passenger liner, usually pointing her bow towards Boston or Liverpool.[7][8]


  1. ^ Higgins, Jenny. "1914 Sealing Disaster". Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage. Memorial University of Newfoundland. Retrieved 2013-08-29. 
  2. ^ "Death on the Ice: The Story That Had to be Told". Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage. Memorial University of Newfoundland. November 2000. Retrieved 2013-08-29. 
  3. ^ ""I Just Didn't Want to Die": The 1914 Newfoundland Sealing Disaster". Our Collection. National Film Board of Canada. Retrieved 2013-08-29. 
  4. ^ Bradbury, Tara (29 March 2014). "Film takes new approach to sealing disaster". The Telegram. Retrieved 31 March 2014. 
  5. ^ a b "Newfoundland". Art of Age of Sail. Retrieved 2013-08-29. 
  6. ^ "Samuel Blandford: Biography Stories and Poem" (pdf). Turnbull Clan. Retrieved 2013-08-29. 
  7. ^ "Passenger Lists For Trains and Vessels Associated with Newfoundland". Newfoundland's Grand Banks. Retrieved 2013-08-29. 
  8. ^ "SS Newfoundland". Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild. Retrieved 2013-08-29.