The August Gale

Kingwell By Kingwell, 6th Apr 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>General Non-Fiction

August, in Newfoundland is known for it's horrendous storms. This is the story of one such gale and of the terrible lost of life left in its wake.

Storms, Gales and Hurricanes

The Island of Newfoundland has seen its share of storms, gales, and hurricanes, many of which have brought tragedy to the heroic men and women who live by the sea and make a living by plying their trade amid the mighty roars of the Atlantic communication, even many experienced mariners would find themselves in dire Ocean. The storms often come up suddenly and in the days before radio straits. One such storm occurred just four years before I was born and I grew up hearing stories of what was referred to as “the August Gale” which had claimed the lives of forty men, including four brothers from the small community into which I was destined to be born in October of 1939. The date was August 24, 1935 and the fishing had been good all day. Towards evening however, it became clear to the more seasoned fishermen that a storm was brewing and some worried it would be a bad one. Many however, especially the younger men were reluctant to leave the fishing grounds while there was still daylight and the fish were plentiful. The following day was Sunday and the men were hoping to spend it at home with their families. As the winds began to rise rapidly, the skippers ordered their men to get their gear out of the water and head for the nearest port. A few minutes can often mean the difference between life and death at such times and the more experienced crews signalled to other nearby boats that they were leaving at once. As darkness approached and the gale bore down the thought on every mind was to reach a safe harbour.

Doing Business in Great Waters

All through that evening and into the early hours of Sunday morning, the winds continued to rise before peaking at more than 100 miles per hour. As Sunday morning, slowly turned into afternoon and evening, the winds showed no signs of abating. Some who had reached sheltered harbours early had no idea of the tragedy being played out just a few miles away. The details of what really happened and why some of the boats waited just a little too long before leaving will never be known, but some of those who did make it told tales of valiant affords to save others, and of finally having to leave to the oceans awful wrath comrades, friends, and in some cases fathers and sons. Sunrise on Monday the 26th saw a relatively calm sea with nature showing no evidence of yesterday’s fury. As the day wore on however, anxious wives and mothers looked seaward, their eyes scanning the horizon for some sign of their loved ones. Those who had managed to survive the awful pillage hurried home to the waiting arms of weeping loved ones, some bearing stories of sights that would forever inhabit their dreams and bring indescribable nightmares. By nightfall, it appeared clear that many would not be returning, though a few were to even yet have their hopes realized. The oil lamps remained lit in many a home that night as friends gathered to comfort the widows,and grieving mothers of loved ones who would never again cut firewood for the kitchen stove or bring home seabirds for their Sunday dinner. Few bodies would ever be found and acceptance a long time in coming. Life however, must go on and even those who had witnessed the tragedy would themselves have no choice but to return to their boats, wondering no doubt, if the next storm would see them join their comrades at the ocean’s floor as is often the legacy of “those who do business in great waters”.

Tags

Atlantic Ocean, August, Brothers, Business, Fishermen, Gale, Hurricane, Indescribable Nightmares, Lost At Sea, Oil Lamps, Orphans, Widows

Meet the author

author avatar Kingwell
I am 75 years old and retired.I like writing short stories, poetry as well other articles of interest.

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Comments

author avatar writestuff
6th Apr 2014 (#)

Thanks for sharing this regional history.

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author avatar Kingwell
6th Apr 2014 (#)

Thank you writestuff. Blessings.

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author avatar wonder
6th Apr 2014 (#)

Those who suffer only know what it is and we think it happens to other people only, sad.Life is so wonderful near the waters yet so insecure.

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author avatar Kingwell
6th Apr 2014 (#)

Hi woner, I have lived most of my life by the water and it's true that it can be beautiful but it also has no mercy. It is much better for ships today of course because of new technology. Blessings.

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author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
7th Apr 2014 (#)

There were no warnings from authorities like we have now tracking the march of storms by the hour. Still accidents cannot be avoided. Thanks Kingwell for bringing this tragic story but life goes on and it is just another day soon - siva

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author avatar Kingwell
8th Apr 2014 (#)

Thanks Siva and yes they would have been forewarned about the oncoming storm today.

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author avatar Fern Mc Costigan
7th Apr 2014 (#)

As always a great post and writing by you Kingwell!

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author avatar Kingwell
8th Apr 2014 (#)

Thank you Fern

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author avatar Phyl Campbell
8th Apr 2014 (#)

Ouch. Some tragedies are unavoidable. Storms are nature's way, perhaps, of reclaiming her own. Thanks for the share.

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author avatar Kingwell
8th Apr 2014 (#)

Thank you Phyl. There were no warning then as there are today.

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author avatar Delicia Powers
5th May 2014 (#)

The "widow walks" (tiny balconies on top of old New England homes) still giving tribute to that desperate wait for a fisherman's return home...history deeply felt in this outstanding page Kingwell thank you ...

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author avatar Kingwell
5th May 2014 (#)

I've never heard of "widow walks" in Newfoundland but it sure sounds right. Thank you for following.

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