Gales exhibit at the Fisheries Museum, Lunenburg
....Alone, alone, all, all alone,
Alone on a wide wide sea!
And never a saint took pity on
My soul in agony....
Samuel Taylor Coleridge from The Ancient Mariner
(The Fishermens' Memorial and Tribute, Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. Photograph
by Wilfred L. Eisnor. Unveiled on August 25, 1996 and paid for by public
inscription. The monument is of black granite and in the shape of a
compass rose, having eight direction points/columns, representing all
the directions. Each of those columns has three sides. Engraved on those
columns are names of those, primarily fishermen, who have lost their
lives or been lost while engaged with boats and vessels that are owned
or operated from Lunenburg County. The dates range from at least 1890
to 1995. The four-sided centre tower of the compass rose has the dedication
inscription on one side, the names of vessels lost with all hands on
another side and the names of vessels lost on the other two sides.)
In August of both 1926 and 1927, severe
storms ravaged the Atlantic coastline of Canada, Newfoundland and the
United States. The storm, or "Gale", was particularly intense near Sable
Island. During the two Gales, the well-known "Graveyard of the Atlantic"
claimed the lives of the crews of six Lunenburg schooners, and the American
"August Gales" exhibit at the Fisheries Museum in Lunenburg consists
primarily of photographs and biographies of the lost fishermen, newspaper
accounts from the time of the tragedies and salvaged artifacts from
The introductory section focuses on Sable Island and its long association
with disaster. Photographic copies of early charts show that the area
was a source of concern for navigators from the time of the first shipwreck,
in 1583. By 1630, Sable Island was described as a "place well-known
"August Gales" were first recorded at Sable Island in 1873. Many vessels
were lost. However, it was not until 1926 that the Lunenburg fishing
fleet felt the full force of this "dark isle of mourning".
On August 8, 1926, the Lunenburg schooners "Sylvia Mosher" and "Sadie
A. Knickle" were lost. Crew members came from small fishing communities
along the Nova Scotia coast. For several weeks after the storm there
was confusion regarding the extent of the losses. Since very little
wreckage washed ashore and there was no ship-to-shore radio communication,
it was difficult to determine how many vessels were lost.
Plans were made after the 1926 gale to add radio equipment and engines
to the fishing schooners. With these additions, schooners would be better
prepared to survive similar storms. However, the improvements were not
made in time to help during the 1927 August Gale.
In 1927, the Lunenburg schooners "Mahala", "Uda R Corkum", "Clayton
W. Walters", and "Joyce M. Smith" were lost with their entire crews.
The American schooner "Columbia", with mainly a Nova Scotian crew, was
also lost. Close to 100 fishermen lost their lives. In addition to those
loses, many vessels were lost along the Atlantic coast.
For the Lunenburg schooners, the disaster was particularly harsh. Each
vessels had crew members who were related to each other. One example
is found in the "Mahala". The Captain, Warren Knickle, was lost with
his two brothers, Owen and Grenville, and their brother-in-law, Scott
As in 1926, weeks of uncertainty were experienced by every family who
had loved ones at sea. The Gale took place on August 24, 1927. In the
case of the American schooner "Columbia", it was October before the
owners were able to confirm that their schooner had been lost.
The storm affected communities all along the eastern seaboard. Most
of the crew of the "Clayton W. Walters" were from Newfoundland. Many
of the others came from parts of Nova Scotia.
The "August Gales" exhibit emphasizes dangers of schooner fishing. The
loss of 138 men in two years brought home hardships to many families.
For those families, the "Gales" were the start of years of mourning
and financial worry. Nova Scotian families received monthly compensation
cheques. Newfoundland families did not receive assistance until an Anglican
minister arranged payments of $100.00 per year to each family who suffered
Visitors often spend long periods of time in this exhibit. The exhibit
helps us to realize that a romantic view of schooner fishing is not
an accurate one. Coastal communities owe a great debt to the families
of the generations of men who have gone down to the sea in ships. ©
Copyright 2000 Province of Nova Scotia. All rights reserved Last revised
May 16, 2001 (http://www.lostatsea.ca/gales.htm