Fred Campbell is a long time resident of Stephenville Crossing, with an interesting shipwreck story to tell.
On December 13, 1946, the herring schooner, the Christie and Eleanor, left Lark Harbour on the West Coast of Newfoundland, for a trip to Gloucester, Massachusetts. On board were the Captain John Smith, and crew members, John Manning, Joe English, Charlie Fizzard, Morgan Trimm and George Samuel Welsh. All were Newfoundlanders except Mr. Manning, who was from Oderin.
The schooner was not long out of port before it encountered strong winds. As the day went on a snowstorm and gale force winds battered the schooner and its crew. Late in the night the jumbo sail was blown away and the engine gave out and on Saturday the schooner floundered in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, with the foregaff, foreboom, and one of the two dories, carried away.
The crew worked feverishly to restart the engine, but by Saturday evening, the ship was only within two miles of Cape St. George. The remaining dory had also disappeared into the sea.
Just before daybreak on Sunday December 16, they were near Bay St. George. A change in wind direction and a lull in the gale force winds enabled them to navigate towards shelter in the bay. In the evening the wind and snow returned and the men began to fear for their lives. The loss of the last lifeboat meant they had no way to leave the ship.
Late in the afternoon of December 16, they ran aground, about 300 yards, from Stephenville Crossing. Within moments of the wreck, the rudder unshipped, and a hole opened in the stern. Gale force winds whipped the sea over the wreck of the Christie and Eleanor and its Captain and crew. The men lashed themselves to what was left of their vessel for the night.
The wreck had not gone unnoticed and onshore residents of Stephenville Crossing gathered to decide what could be done. They signalled to the crew to let them know they had been seen. The residents soon discovered that the high winds and waves blowing onshore prevented any hope of sending a boat out to the wreck.
On the stranded schooner Captain Smith wrote a desperate plea on a piece of paper, which in placed in a bottle, then in an oil can, and tossed it overboard with the hopes that the onshore winds would carry it to shore. The desparate plea reached the onlookers on shore and an attempt was made by Ron McIsaac and Charles Fleet to reach the wreck, but their dory was swamped by the white surf and rollers on each attempt.
Military officers from Harmon Field came to the site and an army vehicles lights were left shining on the wreck through the night.
At high tide only the aft and wheelhouse of the Christie and Eleanor remained out of water. The Captain and crew in the wheelhouse were weakened by cold and exposure, and stood up to their knees in water. At daylight on Tuesday, December 17, the efforts to save the crew redoubled. Finally at 7:30 am., Mr. Fred Campbell and Mr. Ron Bennett residents of Stephenville Crossing, succeeded in getting a small dory through the surf. At great personal risk to their own lives, they reached the shipwrecked sailors. English, Fizzard, Trimm, and Welsh, were in the worse shape and they were taken to shore first. Half an hour later Captain Smith and Mr. Manning were brought to shore.
The women of Stephenville Crossing had blankets and hot coffee waiting for the rescued and the rescuers.
The men were transported to Stephenville Hospital, where they were treated for shock and frozen limbs. Doctors who examined the men stated they could not have lived another day exposed as they were to the elements.
Inspite of their long ordeal, 5 of the men were released from hospital after just one day, and Officer Manning remained to be treated for frostbite to his hands and feet.
As a final act of kindness the residents of Stephenville Crossing provided the men with places to stay until they arranged for transportation to the South Coast.
The entire story of the Ship Wreck of the Christie and Eleanor, can be read in detail in the December 2001 Edition of the