A tragedy of the sea

The Compass - - OPINION -

Per­haps the hard­est thing in life is to never to have the op­por­tu­nity to say good­bye to a loved one, when they are ac­ci­den­tally killed. Or worse still, to have your off­spring – a son, daugh­ter or grand­child – pre­de­cease you.

Seven­teen poor souls were killed Thurs­day morn­ing in a he­li­copter ac­ci­dent, when their chop­per was forced to ditch in the At­lantic Ocean be­cause of what was thought to be a me­chan­i­cal prob­lem. Only one sur­vivor was plucked from the frigid wa­ters, as the he­li­copter was on its way to the SeaRose and Hiber­nia off­shore oil plat­forms.

Im­me­di­ately, many peo­ple be­gan to have flash­backs to the Ocean Ranger dis­as­ter when 84 work­ers were lost in Fe­bru­ary 1982.

But New­found­lan­ders, and in par­tic­u­larly Burin Penin­sula res­i­dents be­cause of the area’s ties to the deep sea fish­ery, have known heartache and tragedy for a cen­tury or more as they try to eek a liv­ing from the sea.

Even to lose a sin­gle life, as fish­er­men try to sus­tain their fam­i­lies, is a tragedy.

But here on the penin­sula, tragedy has struck in large num­bers.

Over half a cen­tury ago dur­ing World War II, two United States naval ves­sels floun­dered on the rocks near St. Lawrence and Lawn with the loss of 203 sailors.

Grand Bank and res­i­dents of For­tune Bay sail­ing out of that famed fish­ing com­mu­nity have had their tragedies with the loss of the Schooner ‘Par­tanna’ and the stern trawlers ‘Blue Wave’ and ‘Blue Mist’ – the most dra­matic ones.

That town now has a Mariners’ Memo­rial mon­u­ment dis­play­ing the names of hun­dreds of lost loved ones who went to sea and never re­turned. An ef­fort was made to make the memo­rial a pro­vin­cial one, but the ma­jor­ity of names have ties to this re­gion.

The heartaches of th­ese tragedies never re­ally go away, but every­one who looks to the sea for their liveli­hood knows and un­der­stands th­ese hor­ror sto­ries will con­tinue no mat­ter how many safety mea­sures are im­ple­mented.

The wind and the sea are pow­er­ful forces. It means the ben­e­fits, which can be de­rived from in and un­der­neath the wa­ters off our shores, are eas­ily re­placed with heartaches and death.

May we al­ways re­mem­ber th­ese men and women left their loved ones not be­cause they wanted to, but be­cause of forces be­yond their con­trol.

The Chris­tian com­mu­nity has many hymns about the sea and its re­la­tion­ship with mankind. There is one hymn though that re­minds us all ‘God will take care of you’. That re­mains our strength.

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