The Memorial University’s Maritime History Archive in the faculty of Arts has received grants that will result in the exhibition of two major new projects on their website by June 2010.
The first, titled Dead Reckoning: Rescue, Race and Cultural Awakening on the South Coast of Newfoundland, tells the story of three U.S. naval vessels – the USS Pollux, Truxtun and Wilkes – who were involved in one of the worst disasters ever recorded in naval history.
Using dead reckoning (the process of estimating one's current position based upon a previously determined position and advancing that position based upon known or estimated speeds) as a means of navigation, these vessels ran aground in a raging winter storm near St. Lawrence on Newfoundland’s Burin Peninsula on Feb. 18, 1942. More than 200 lives were lost but the ensuing rescue of more than 180 American sailors from certain death remains one of the most significant and dramatic rescues in Canadian history.
Dead Reckoning will highlight the most famous survivor from Truxtun - a young African American named Lanier Phillips. Dr. Phillips, who received an honorary degree from Memorial University in 2008, now lectures across North America about how his life was changed by his encounter with Newfoundlanders, the first white people to treat him with respect.
The exhibit will use archival documents, images, sound and film segments to tell the story and will include a timeline, biographies of some of the survivors and an interactive segment where the few remaining survivors, family members, friends and descendants of victims and rescuers can tell their stories.
The Maritime History Archive has partnered with the St. Lawrence Heritage Society on this project. The archive has been awarded $35,600 by the Canadian Council of Archives under their Archival Community Digitization Program and the St. Lawrence Heritage Society has raised $5,500 through the provincial government’s Cultural Economic Development Program. More than $5,000 has also been collected from private donors.
Under the second initiative, the Alphabet Fleet Digitization Project, the Maritime History Archive will digitize all known surviving crew agreements and official log books for the Alphabet Fleet, 1919-1939. This fleet included the following vessels: Argyle, Bruce, Clyde, Dundee, Ethie, Fife, Glencoe, Home, Invermore, Kyle, Lintrose and Meigle. These were coastal vessels, owned by the Reid-Newfoundland Railway, who carried freight and passengers around the island and north to Labrador for more than 70 years.
“We have identified a total of approximately 1,000 pages of crew agreements and official log books for the Alphabet Fleet in our collection which will be digitized and available on our website,” said Heather Wareham, archivist.
In addition, a history and photographs of each vessel will be provided and a database containing the names and employment dates of all the people who worked on the vessels will be created.
The archive has been awarded $11,620 from the Canadian Council of Archives under their National Archival Development Program to complete this project.