Captains, Ships and Seamen

James Newell Adrift

Thank you Geoff Martin for this article

Clement Noel of Jersey Shipwreck 1931

Clement Noel 1831 shipwreck


1831 John Newell survives wreck of Azariah


Shannon Ryan

The Northern Mariner

In 1831 a schooner was lost on the way to the front:

The new schooner Azariah, John Bonnell master, with a crew of twenty men and

two boys, besides the master, sailed on the sealing voyage from Cupids, Port-de-

Grave, about 7 P. M . , on Wednesday the 16th instant [March]. She went down

the bay with a smart wholesale breeze, at S. W. by S.; the weather was tolerably

clear untilmidnight, so much so that the man at the helm, John Newall, could

see both sides of the bay. Atmidnightsome snow-showers came on; Newall was

shortly after relieved at the helm, and went below. About half past 2 A. M . , he

was aroused by an alarming call for all hands; he sprang from his berth and ran

upon deck, when he saw the land right over the foreyard; in a minute the vessel’s

bowsprit struck the cliff end on; the mainsail had been lowered, the other sails

were full, the wind blowing a smart but fair breeze; the weather was thick and

dark. The bowsprit presently broke off, and both fore and main masts then

quickly fell with a tremendous crash, and so encumbered the deck, and hampered

the pumps that it was impossible to get them out; the wind was increasing and

the vessel crashing heavily against the cliff. It appeared now necessary for the

crew to leap from the vessel to the rocks, to save their lives. Four men only, out

of twenty-three, succeeded in the attempt. A l l the rest perished. At daylight these

four saw the floating pieces of the schooner, and one only of all their companions,

and he in the agonies of death feebly grasping a part of the broken bow of

the vessel. In a few minutes his hands resigned their hold, and he sank under the

whelming waters. They remained in the cliff until about 2 P. M. on Thursday,

when they succeeded in clamouring up the precipices to the top of theIsland(for

it was Bacalieu [sic]). In the afternoon of the same day they saw a schooner, and

hailed her, but without effect, she proceeded on up the bay; the weather was

foggy. A l l Thursday night they passed without shelter or food, except what the

fir boughs afforded for the one and the ground berries for the other. On Friday

morning, the 18th instant, they were providentially discovered and taken off the

Island by the crew of the Schooner Joseph, of Cupids, James Le Drow, master,

then coming in with a trip of seals from the ice. At 3 P. M. of the same day, they

were safely landed at Cupids. It appears from Newall’s statement, that in going

down the Bay, they steered too much to the northward, thick weather came on,

and there was not that vigilant look out kept, which should under such

circumstances be always strictly attended to. The vessel was lost in a small cove

on the S. S. W. end of Bacalieu, where there is no beach, and the cliffs are steep

and craggy. Several of the unfortunate men were married and have left large

families to deplore their untimely fate.

For a small outport like Cupids, this was a disaster that affected a relatively large proportion o families. Yet there is a certain casualness inherent in this account. There may have been a good reason to leave Cupids in the evening instead of waiting until daybreak, but it does seem that the rewas extreme carelessness involved in not keeping a better lookout and being unable to hold a reasonably accurate course sailing out of this wide bay with a “smart wholesale breeze. ” Human error was involved in many sealing disasters.

Note from PN

At this time there were John Newells in both Brigus and Bareneed that could have been the man involved.


Off Beat History. Tragedy on Sealing Schooner.

Evening Telegram                                              January 11, 1960

Early in April, 1817 a sealing schooner belonging to Thomas Danson, a merchant of Harbour Grace, blew up a few miles off Cape St. Francis, at the mouth of ConceptionBay. The vessel was most likely returning from the icefields with a load of seal pelts at the time the tragedy occurred, though she could have been just starting out on her second trip.

Apparently the stock of gunpowder carried by the vessel for use by the gunners, for blasting the ice-pack if the vessel became jammed, exploded. Carelessness on the part of some crew member, or perhaps an accidental fire, could have caused the explosion. In any event it was a shattering explosion.

Most of the crew of the schooner were either killed outright or seriously injured. Two of the men disappeared altogether – simply blown to atoms. Six dead men were taken to Harbour Grace by another vessel and buried ashore. The rest were buried at sea or went down with the wreck. The captain of the ill-fated craft was John Newall or Noel, a well-known Harbour Grace name. He was mortally injured in the explosion and died the same day as he was landed in Harbour Grace from a rescue ship.

 St Paul’s Harbour Grace Burials                     

30 Mar 1817 John Newell 26 yr of   this parish, S.S.
30 Mar 1817 Jonathan Parsons [28?]   yr of   this parish
2 Apr 1817 Thomas Clarke 17 yr of   Musquitto