Arrival of the "Grand Lake" and "Virginia Lake" With Bumper Trips
DESCRIPTION: "The Grand Lake, boys, is coming in, With bunting grand, Manned by a crew of hardy lads Who belong to Newfoundland." The Grand Lake and the Virginia both return to port with large hauls of seal pelts and fat
EARLIEST DATE: 1904 (Old Home Week Songster)
KEYWORDS: hunting ship
REFERENCES (1 citation):
Ryan/Small, p. 71, "Arrival of the 'Grand Lake' and 'Virginia Lake' With Bumper Trips" (1 text)
cf. "First Arrival -- 'Aurora' and 'Walrus' Full" (ships, theme)
cf. "Arrival of 'Aurora,' Diana,' 'Virginia Lake' and 'Vanguard,' Loaded" (theme, ships)
cf. "The Sealer's Song (II)" (ships)
NOTES [846 words]: The Virginia Lake and Grand Lake were sisters (O'Neill, p 972). Virginia Lake was originally built as the Conscript in 1882, and was a coastal steamer (Hanrahan, p. 200, although Bruce, p. 24, says that her exact age was unknown); she was renamed in 1892 (Greene, pp. 276-277). She ran many different routes while in that service -- going from Newfoundland to Labrador, and Newfoundland to Canada, as well as travelling between various of Newfoundland's outports. Bruce, p. 24, reports that she was 180 feet long, 760 gross tons, and had a speed of ten knots. She first served as a sealer in 1901, and from that time on served every year until her loss in 1909 (Chafe, p. 104). She continued her coastal work in the off season, however; when the "Alphabet Fleet" (for which see "The Wreck of the Steamship Ethie") lost its Labrador steamer Fife in 1900, the Virginia Lake replaced her (Bruce, p. 20. This implies to me that the Labrador ferry was expected to carry more freight than passengers, since the Alphabet ships were generally more elegant than an old coastal/sealing steamer). Bruce, pp. 24-25, records the complaints of a passenger about how she had been extremely over-booked in 1905.
The Grand Lake too was a coastal steamer which had a short career as a sealer; she went to the ice under Henry Dawe 1903-1905, then under Job Knee 1906-1908. In 1903, she took 25,688 seals, and 30,171 in 1904, but only 11,164 in 1905 (Chafe, pp. 90, 100). Since the song refers to her service under Dawe, and to taking twenty thousand seals, it must refer to 1903 or 1904. She sank suddenly on April 4, 1908 (Greene, p. 277), but her crew of 203 were rescued by the Vanguard (O'Neill, p. 972). It wasn't due to accident or weather; she was one of the few ships that had not been damaged in a year noted for bad weather. Apparently it was the result of an engineering problem that caused an injection pipe to burst, opening up the ship to flooding (FelthamNortheast, pp. 74-75; Ryan, p. 309; although Ryan, p. 191 says that she was merely crushed).
The Virginia Lake also had a difficult 1908 (the conditions were said to be incredibly bad, with many ships damaged; FelthamNortheast, p. 74), having her bow stove in, but survived (O'Neill, p. 972) -- only to be lost in 1909. The Vanguard, which a year earlier had rescued the Grand Lake's crew, followed the Virginia Lake to the bottom a week later (Feltham, p. 151).
The Virginia Lake first went to the ice under Job Knee in 1901, and sailed under him in 1902 as well. William Winsor (Jr.) commanded her in 1903 and 1904, and she took 22,677 and 26,379 seals in those years. She served under Samuel Blandford 1905-1906 and Jacob Kean 1907-1909, when she was lost. In none of those years did she match her totals under Winsor (Chafe, p. 104).
Her loss was apparently pretty spectacular. Bruce, p. 30, says that she was trapped by ice for sixteen days in March 1909. The ice also broke her main shaft (Butler, p. 30; Ryan, p. 309). The Bellaventure at one time was close enough to pass a line -- but she broke four different lines before they gave up (Butler, p. 30). Still trapped, a very severe blizzard came up, and without motive power and trapped in the ice, she had no way to fight it. Her rudder wrenched was off and her stern wrecked, (Butler, p. 30; Ryan, p. 309) so that she took on water too fast to stay afloat. The men finally abandoned her; the Bellaventure took 110 on board while 50 walked across seven mile of ice to land. The ship itself then burned for four hours and sank (Butler, p. 30; Hanrahan, p. 200).
Since Henry Dawe commanded the Grand Lake only in 1903-1905 (Chafe, p. 90) and William Winsor commanded the Virginia Lake only in 1903 and 1904 (Chafe, p. 96), this song must from one of those years. 1904 is the better bet, since the Grand Lake took more than 30,000 seals in that year, its highest total under Dawe, plus the Virginia Lake is said to have taken more than 25,000 seals, which was true only in 1904.
Interestingly, in neither year did the two ships arrive on the same day. But in 1904 Grand Lake was the fourth ship to reach St. John's, on April 1, and Virginia Lake the fifth on April 2 (Chafe, p. 71). In 1903, Virginia Lake was the first to make it home, on March 28, and the Grand Lake only the fifth, on April 1 (Chafe, p. 70). So it would make a lot more sense to refer to them arriving together in 1904.
The Virginia Lake is also mentioned in "Arrival of the 'Grand Lake' and 'Virginia Lake' With Bumper Trips," "Arrival of 'Aurora,' 'Diana,' 'Virginia Lake,' and 'Vanguard,' Loaded" and "The Sealer's Song (II)." The Grand Lake is also mentioned in "The Sealer's Song (II)." William Winsor Jr. is also mentioned "First Arrival from the Sea Fishery S. S. Fogota, 1912." Henry Dawe is mentioned in "The Sealing Trip of the S. S. Greenland 1891," "The Bully Crew," and "I Am a Newfoundlander," as well as in "The Sealer's Song (II), which see.
There is a small photo of the Grand Lake as she was sinking on p. 81 of Ryan/Drake. - RBW
Last updated in version 4.4
- Bruce: Harry Bruce, Lifeline: The Story of the Atlantic Ferries and Coastal Boats, Macmillan of Canada, 1977
- Chafe: Levi George Chafe, Chafe's Sealing Book: A History of the Newfoundland Sealfishery from the Earliest Available Records Down To and Including the Voyage of 1923, third edition, Trade Printers and Publishers, Ltd., 1923 (PDF scan available from Memorial University of Newfoundland)
- Felthamnortheast: John Feltham, Northeast from Baccalieu, Harry Cuff Publications, 1990
- FelthamSteamers: John Feltham, Sealing Steamers, Harry Cuff Publications, 1995
- Greene: William Howe Greene, The Wooden Walls among the Ice Flows: Telling the Romance of the Newfoundland Seal Fishery, Hutchinson & Co, London (PDF available on the Memorial University of Newfoundland web site)
- O'Neill: Paul O'Neill, A Seaport Legacy: The Story of St. John's, Newfoundland, Press Procepic, 1976
- Ryan: Shannon Ryan, The Ice Hunters: A History of Newfoundland Sealing to 1914, Breakwater Books, 1994
- 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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