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.