SS Langleecrag -1947
Great Sacred Island
November 15, 1947
At 9:00 a.m. on Saturday morning, November 15, 1947, Mr. T. Divine of the Marine Divisions Department,
Public Utilities received a telegram reporting that the 4,909 ton British freighter S. S. Langleecrag was
ashore and broken in two at Boat Harbour, Cape Norman. The telegram also reported that an American
Coastguard cutter was on its way to the area, and assistance was needed from the land . Later that day it
was confirmed that two American Coastguard cutters, Duane and Dexter were on their way to the stranded
ship, but would not arrive until the following morning. One man was reported lost from the stranded ship.
On receipt of the message concerning the wreck, Mr. T. Devine telegraphed Sergeant Christian of the
Newfoundland Ranger Force at St. Anthony and notified all the post offices in the area of Cape Norman
asking for help. The same message was also broadcast on radio. The Newfoundland Railway Maritime
Department also made contact with the M. V. Clarenville which was on a voyage from Corner Brook to Battle
Harbour to go to the assistance of the stranded freighter.
The weather was very stormy on the northern Newfoundland coast and it was several days before Ranger
Christian could leave St. Anthony. The whaling ship Olaf Olsen was at St. Anthony and she prepared to leave
for the scene of the wreck as soon as the weather permitted. In the meantime, contact with the wreck was
maintained through the wireless operator on the Langleecrag. It was soon discovered that the location of the
wreck was not Boat Harbour. The wireless operator later gave a good account of what had happened:
I woke up about 5:00 a.m. Saturday morning (November 15). We had struck something but the shock was
not very bad. So, I thought it was only a big wave and went back to sleep. A few minutes later several
bumps shook me and knowing something was wrong I jumped out of bed and started to dress. The lights
were out and someone shouted to send out an S.O.S. message. I hurried to the bridge and asked the
Captain what had happened. He thought we had struck an iceberg. This was found later to be incorrect. I
went to the wireless room and switched on the emergency set since the main power was off, but no power
went out to the aerial. I was rather shocked at that and hurried to the bridge to inform the Captain who told
me that the ship had broken in half and the aerial was broken too. The second mate Ivan Caley and a
sailor helped me to fix up the stumps of the aerial left on our half of the ship, and we got connected up and
sent out an S.O.S. Belle Isle radio answered and that was one of the happiest moments of my life. Because
of the darkness we did not have any idea where we were or what had already happened. Belle Isle took a
radio bearing on us . Then Mr. Caley worked this bearing out on a chart.. I radioed back we thought our
position was Boat Harbour on the northern tip of the northern Newfoundland mainland. This later proved
wrong and we did not know until later we were really on an island.
When dawn came, they could see that the ship was hard and fast on the rocks, and for the moment was
comparatively safe, although she was being pounded by the high waves. As the wireless operator on the
Langleecrag was operating on emergency power and the signal was weak, the wireless station on Belle Isle
took over the actual distress signalling and repeated his signal for the next eight hours. At around 6:00 a.m.
the American Coastguard cutter Duane wired she was coming to the assistance of the wrecked ship, but first
had to stop and refuel. The steam ship Fort Vercheres, which was seventy-two miles , away answered the
S.O.S. but was advised by Captain Orford not to attempt a rescue just yet, because the weather was too
rough it might jeopardize the rescuing craft. As the Duane was some miles to the southward of where the
Langleecrag had gone ashore, Captain Orford decided to try and get the crew and some provisions ashore.
The wireless operator described the tragic events that followed:
The aft end of the broken ship was on the rocks so the crew there went down the ladder to the rocks and
made fast steel wires and ropes from the fore end of the ship to the rocks on the shore. The first man down,
F. Anderson was drowned by the huge waves which broke over the ladder. .A breeches
buoy was made by attaching a plank to ropes suspended like a chair from the steel wires. By means of this
all the crew on the fore end of the ship got safely ashore, except again for the first man W. V. Cooling, who
attempted the treacherous pass by hand over hand and was swept off by a wave. We still thought we were
on the mainland so I wirelessed Belle Isle to wire to the land for search parties to look for us. Two British
ships they were coming to our rescue, but by this time it was daylight and
the captain saw how impossible the weather conditions made any attempt of immediate aid so he advised
them not to try.
Some of us (officers) stayed on board for nine hours while the crew abandon4ed the ship. The chief steward
made soup by putting coal in a bucket and making a fire that way. Good soup it was to, corned beef and
The officers later joined the crew who had made it ashore and set up camp in lee of a big boulder, about a
half mile from the scene of the wreck. That first night they were very miserable as it was cold and wet and they
had only a small piece of sail to cover them. They had to take turns getting close to the fire to get warm.
Back at St. Anthony, Ranger Christian and his rescue party on the whaling ship Olaf Olsen were waiting for a
break in the weather to get underway. Mr. J. H. Patey , the post master at St. Anthony was on board the ship
to operate her wireless. It was not until Wednesday, four days after the first distress message, that the Olsen
was able to get underway to go to the assistance of the wrecked crew of the Landleecrag .
On Sunday morning the wireless operator went back aboard the wreck by breeches buoy. This was now more
difficult and dangerous, as the ship had shifted her position and the ropes were now almost perpendicular. He
contacted Ranger Christian and was informed that the land search parties had already begun. Belle Isle took
another radio bearing on the wreck and, after charting it on their maps, changed the wreck site to the
mainland in Sacred bay, about ten miles from Quirpon; search parties were on their way overland.
On Monday morning the fog which had blanketed he area lifted, and the shipwrecked persons could see the
flashes from the Cape Bauld lighthouse. On seeing this Mr. Caley, sent up flares in hopes of guiding the
search parties to their location. The wireless operator went aboard the wreck again and contacted Belle isle.
This time Belle Isle properly identified their location as Sacred Island, and told them the whaling ship Olaf
Olsen was standing by to take the off as soon as the weather cleared. The shipwrecked men after four days
in their makeshift shelter, were in a pretty sorry state, and the operatorís last message read: ď Must have help
within 48-hours.Ē However, the news that a ship was coming cheered up the men, and gave them the courage
to carry on.
On Tuesday evening the weather cleared up, and the shipwrecked crew could see the houses and boats in
Ship Cove, about three miles away from the island. The sea was still to rough for any boats to effect the
On Wednesday morning, November the 19, the Olaf Olsen left St.Anthony around 7:00a.m. In addition to her
regular crew she carried Ranger Christian, who was officially directing the rescue mission, Harvey Stride of
the Department of Post and Telegraph and Dr. Gordon Thomas of the Grenfell Mission. The weather was still
stormy and Ranger Christian said ďconditions were impossible.Ē They sighted the Sacred Islands about 10:30
a.m. after a very stormy passage, and could see the wreckage of the S.S. Langleecrag.
Two other craft were already standing off shore from Sacred Island. One was a big American Liberty ship
and the other was the small aircraft carrier Empire McCallum. Both ships had answered the S.O.S. from the
The Olaf Olsen arrived just in time to witness another drama of the sea. The Empire McCallum launched a
life boat manned by 14 sailors. They were soon in danger of being swamped, and could not land anywhere
near the wreck. The boat was carried further down the coast but manage to land safely near Cape Onion. The
fourteen sailors made their way to a near by settlement, and were later flown to Gander and on to Montreal to
rejoin their ship.
Captain Arne Borgen of the Olaf Olsen also launched a life boat, but that too was swept away and the whaler
spent an hour in vain pursuit before returning to the scene of the wreck. The wireless operator described their
Wednesday morning we saw near our wreck a big U.S. Liberty ship and the aircraft carrier Empire
McCallum . The carrier sent a life boat out towards the rocky shore. It looked as though another tragedy
would happen there, but they got ashore safely. Then we saw Captain Arne Borgenís whaler coming
towards the only spot on the island where a boat might land, a twenty foot stretch of a comparatively safe
water. That brought a big shout out of the boys because they knew that a small boat with strong engine
power with much gear as the whaling vessels have, are the best kind of ship to aid us. The aircraft carrier
was just to heavy and could not be manoeuvred in that heavy sea. The Olaf Olsen shot a harpoon with a
line to shore and we fixed it into the rocks. Then they sent a life boat along the line to us.
The first lifeboat was actually a dory lashed fore and aft, and two men from the whalerís crew hauled it ashore.
The rescuers planned to use the dory as a shuttle back and forth, bringing off a few survivors each time, but
the dory was swamped. The same arrangement was then tried using one of the whalerís lifeboat. Halfway
through the attempt might have to be abandoned until the weather improved. However, thanks to the skill of
Captain Borgen and his crew the rescue was completed.
As soon as they were safely on board the whaler, the shivering men were given hot drinks and warm clothing
and Dr. Thomas attended to their medical needs. They had a stormy passage back to St. Anthony and did not
arrive there until 7:00 p.m. It had taken twelve hours to complete the rescue.
On their arrival at St. Anthony the shipwrecked were quartered in aa number of private homes and institutions
in the town. Ranger Christianís wife, who was stormed bound on board the Northern Ranger , was flown from
Wesleyville to St. Anthony to help with the care of the men. The storm finally blew its self out and the S.S.
Northern Ranger arrived to take the men to St. Johnís. They arrived safely in St. Johnís and were returned to
England on the Furness Withy Liner, Nova Scotia . The bodies of the two seamen who drowned were not
Shipwrecks of Newfoundland and Labrador
Frank Galgay and Michael McCarthy-1997
Creative Book Publishing