Sealing Cruise of the Lone Flier, The
DESCRIPTION: The song chronicles the life of sealers traveling from Twillingate to St. John's then north to the ice fields for seals. Miscellaneous mishaps and achievements are told during the song and many names and factual information mentioned.
AUTHOR: (supposedly the whole crew in question)
EARLIEST DATE: 1929 (Greenleaf/Mansfield)
KEYWORDS: sea travel hunting
FOUND IN: Canada(Newf)
REFERENCES (4 citations):
Greenleaf/Mansfield 123, "The Sealing Cruise of the Lone Flier" (1 text, 1 tune)
Doyle2, pp. 14-15, "The Sealing Cruise of the Lone Flier" (1 text, 1 tune)
Blondahl, pp. 76-77, "The Sealing Cruise of the Lone Flier" (1 text, 1 tune)
Ryan/Small, pp. 126-128, "The Sealing Cruise of the Lone Flier" (1 text, 1 tune)
ST Doy14 (Partial)
NOTES [596 words]: The cruise in question is reported to have taken place from March 10 to April 25, 1929.
Very formulaic introduction of the "come-all-ye" variety with the singer assuring that he will neither "offend" the listener or run too long. [This even though Doyle's version runs 16 verses! - RBW] This is a very typical humble attitude of singers from Newfoundland as shown in many songs. - SH
Starting in the 1860s, sealing had been done by large wooden steamers; in the early twentieth century, steel ships had started to join the hunt. All the latter were lost or sold by the end of World War I, and the wooden steamers began to fail also as the years wore them out; with demand for seals falling, and the seal population badly hit due to hunting, there wasn't much money to replace the big ships.
The Fisherman's Protective Union, or FPU, had an answer: instead of large steamers, which were expensive, or pure sailing ships, which just didn't have enough power, they came up with small schooners with auxiliary diesels. The first of these, Young Harp, went into service in 1927 It was a tremendous success, taking 4353 seals -- far fewer than the big steamers, but the big steamers had crews of 200 or so, and the Young Harp just 27; on a per-man basis, the Young Harp was astonishingly successful. In 1929, seven auxiliary schooners went to the ice, with the Lone Flier being one of them (Candow, p. 49). It proved a very temporary boom; there were six auxiliary schooners in 1930, but just two in 1931 (Candow, p. 50). Thus the 1929 dating seems very likely.
I suspect the Harp, mentioned in the song, is actually the Young Harp.
These schooners didn't last long, but they arguably foreshadowed the Motor Vessels, or MVs, for which see "A Noble Fleet of Sealers."
The Nascopee is properly the Nascopie, which was one of the last attempts to revive the steel sealers. She was built in 1911-1912 at Newcastle and was lost in 1947, running aground near Cape Dorset on Baffin Island (Feltham, p. 91); she served as a sealer 1912-1915 and 1927-1930 (Ryan/Drake, p. 41). She was built for the Hudson's Bay Company to serve their northern posts in the summer, but the icebreaking abilities that served her so well in the north were also helpful for dealing with the ice where the seals whelped (Feltham, p. 86). In her 1912-1915 period as a sealer, her captain was George Barbour, for whom see "The Greenland Disaster (I)"; in her second stint, she was commanded by Abram Kean (Feltham, p. 86), for whom see "Captain Abram Kean." Except for a disastrous 1915, she took more than 17,000 seals in all her years in the ice, and she three times (1913, 1927, 1930) she took more than 30,000 -- a very good number indeed.
She is supposedly the only sealer -- indeed, the only ship -- to have replaced a propeller while at sea (Feltham, p. 88). She also had the unique distinction, for a sealer, of sinking a German submarine during World War I (using a gun installed for defensive purposes; Ryan/Drake, p. 41).
There is a book about the Nascopie, Arctic Command, the Story of Smilie of the Nascopie, but it is entirely about the ship's service outside Newfoundland (Feltham, pp. 87-88 n 60).
Feltham, p. 176, has a picture of the Nascopie, Kean has one on p. 30, and Ryan/Drake on p. 41.
The ninth verse refers to one man getting a "cat." That is not a reference to a feline; a "cat" was a stillborn seal pup, or one that died shortly after birth. They were desirable finds; cats had finer pelts than ordinary seals. And harps are harp seals, not stringed instruments. - RBW
Last updated in version 4.3
- Candow: James E. Candow, Of Men and Seals: A History of the Newfoundland Seal Hunt, Canadian Parks Service, Environment Canada, 1989
- Feltham: John Feltham, Sealing Steamers, Harry Cuff Publications, 1995
- Kean: Abram Kean, with a foreword by Sir Wilfred Grenfell, Old and Young Ahead, 1935; I use the 2000 Flanker Press edition edited and with a new Introduction (and new photographs) by Shannon Ryan
- Ryan/Drake: Shannon Ryan, assisted by Martha Drake, Seals and Sealers: A Pictorial History of the Newfoundland Seal Fishery, Breakwater Books, 1987
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