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May 19 , 2009

A Winters Tale: The Wreck of the Florizel

The Wreck of the Florizel


It was a snowy, stormy night, that February 23, 1918, when the sturdy S.S. Florizelsteamed out of St. John's harbour, bound for Halifax and New York. Captain William Martin, a cautious and competent skipper, encountered thick ice and heavy winds as he headed down the treacherous Newfoundland coast. But these circumstances did not account for the ship's slow speed. Just before dawn, over nine hours after leaving port, Captain Martin ran his ship full steam onto the rocks just north of Cape Race. But that was only the beginning of a long and gruelling drama. As the ship slowly disintegrated, the passengers and crew desperately tried to save themselves. Men, women, and children were washed overboard, or killed from exposure, or fatally trapped below deck. From the shore helpless fishermen watched in horror. Twenty-seven hours after striking the reef the daring rescue took place. Of the 138 on board, seventeen passengers and twenty-seven crew members survived. In A Winter's Tale Cassie Brown retells in chilling detail the story of the wreck, the rescue, and the enquiry that followed. And she proposes, for the first time, the real reason for this senseless disaster.

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