Blue Ice

The Compass - - TRINITY SOUTH -

Shame to say, I must have been un­con­scious in the 1970s be­cause I was un­aware of artist Ge­orge Nose­wor­thy’s ex­is­tence. I was vaguely aware that Hibb’s Hole had changed its name to Hibb’s Cove, but I didn’t know Ge­orge Nose­wor­thy was in­stru­men­tal in that change.

As a re­sult of Daphne Nose­wor­thy’s book “ Blue Ice,” I now know about Ge­orge Nose­wor­thy’s life and art. Iron­i­cally, I s’pose, con­sid­er­ing how un­con­scious I was 40 years ago, I now spend a lot of time “out the bay” in Spa­niard’s Bay and other Bare­need en­vi­rons where Nose­wor­thy, who lived in New­found­land be­cause he “suc­cumbed to the beauty of the place the warmth of the peo­ple, and the un­hur­ried way of life,” once lived.

“Blue Ice” is an over-sized soft­cover book. To some de­gree, that’s un­for­tu­nate. Re­gret­tably, it isn’t the hard­cover, cof­fee ta­ble book that it might have been if print­ing and pub­lish­ing costs were not so pro­hib­i­tive.

I reckon that’s why any­way. I could be wrong. I’m nearly as ig­no­rant about the pub­lish­ing world as I was about Ge­orge Nose­wor­thy in the pre­vi­ous cen­tury.

In 1970, Nose­wor­thy sailed on the Ch­es­ley A. Cros­bie to the ice fields for the an­nual seal hunt off New­found­land and Labrador. His mis­sion was to paint The Hunt. He would be the first artist to do so. As well as paint­ing the seal­ers and their ex­ploits in the harsh en­vi­ron­ment of the north­ern ice, Nose­wor­thy kept a jour­nal of the voy­age.

“Blue Ice” is es­sen­tially an ac­count of Nose­wor­thy’s ad­ven­ture to the ice told by ex­cerpts from his jour­nal and ac­com­pa­nied by full-page re­pro­duc­tions of his paint­ings. Al­though the jour­nal en­tries are in­ter­est­ing, it is the prints that would cause peo­ple to lift this book off the cof­fee ta­ble and browse its pages.

My favourite paint­ing is called, “ The Baker, Sam Sturge.”

Why? Sam was the cook, not a sealer. He kept the seal­ers supplied with good, hot grub. He ought not be un­sung. Be­sides, he re­minds me of an un­cle of mine who was a cook. B’ys, could he bake yummy pork buns!

The 1970 sea­son was not a good one for the Ch­es­ley A. With far less than its quota in its holds, the Ch­es­ley A. was trapped in the ice for nearly a month. This sit­u­a­tion pushed the frus­trated seal­ers — usu­ally op­ti­mistic and jovial — to the edge of despair for a suc­cess­ful hunt and had them scrap­ing at each oth­ers’ rav­el­ling nerves.

Re­membe r t h a t o ld Co­leridge poem about buddy who shot the al­ba­tross and how hi s s h i p w a s be­calmed for ages in the equa­to­rial Dol­drums? The crew nearly went fool­ish, mind?

Al­though the Ch­es­ley A. was trapped in ice half the globe north of the Dol­drums, I couldn’t help think­ing about a line from t h a t a n c i ent mariner’s poem: “ … as idle as a painted ship upon a painted ocean.” Kinda ap­pro­pri­ate don’t you think when you con­sider Nose­wor­thy, locked in place by the slowly drift­ing ice floes, was paint­ing that bit­ter, bar­ren ocean?

Stop read­ing and close your eyes for a minute and pic­ture this: near the top of the world the seal­ing ship Ch­es­ley A. Cros­bie is im­pris­oned by the arc­tic ice. The crew is vir­tu­ally help­less, tied to the whims of the ice. Over­head in outer space, the space­craft Apollo 13 has been crip­pled by an ex­plo­sion and its crew is in mor­tal dan­ger of never re­turn­ing to Earth.

Id­den that a dandy jux­ta­po­si­tion? On the one hand there’s a boat­load of seal­ers stranded while ply­ing an an­cient trade but not par­tic­u­larly in peril; on the other hand there are as­tro­nauts — sailors on a vastly dif­fer­ent ocean, if I may em­ploy such cliché prose — adrift in space, def­i­nitely in dan­ger of dy­ing.

Puts events in per­spec­tive don’t you think? Nose­wor­thy thought so. “Our prob­lems have sud­denly be­come unim­por­tant,” he wrote in his jour­nal on April 14, 1970. By the way, all hands got home safely — the b’ys on the Ch­es­ley A. and the b’ys from outer space.

Here’s a thought. Mr. Percy Cros­bie pur­chased the en­tire col­lec­tion of Nose­wor­thy’s “Hunt” paint­ings and do­nated them to the newly opened St. John’s City Hall. Maybe there’s an­other phi­lan­thropist — dare I sug­gest an­other Mr. Cros­bie? — with a sack full of loonies he’d will­ingly spend to have Blue Ice reprinted in hard­cover.

Eh b’ys? Thank you for read­ing.

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