Chapter 9: North Atlantic Crossing, 1826
Historical accuracy, as I have said in past posts, is critical to me. This chapter begins with a description of the Alliance, owned by Fryer Pack Gosse and captained by Ned Collin. The illustration below is from the Lloyd’s Register of Shipping, 1826, page 36. I have highlighted the insurance record of the Alliance in yellow so you can spot it at a glance. It takes time and practice to understand the purpose of each column and become fluent in all the abbreviations used, but each register (thankfully) provides a legend in the prologue to explain how to interpret the annotated data.
Despite my dedication to the precision of each detail, lovers of historical fiction nonetheless expect a good story. This chapter is significant in that respect as it heralds a change in setting and culture. The first draft of this chapter was about half the length of the final published version. Early reviewers indicated that I had missed an opportunity to acquaint Ananias and the reader about where our protagonist was going and what might be in store for him. With a ship of idle Cornwall fishermen, the tedious hours of sailing were ripe to be mined for additional background and information.
Banter between Ananias and Frank Howell also provides a window on Captain Collin’s immediate past – insight as why he is now married to the sea as opposed to his beloved from Mosqueto. The picture on the left below shows Mosqueto (now Bristol’s Hope) from the barachois. The picture on the right depicts the green fields to the south of the tiny cove (with Carbonear Island in the distance) where Captain Collin received the unfortunate news regarding the girl he had intended to wed.
Of course, a North Atlantic crossing to Newfoundland would not be complete without an iceberg. In the novel, a massive iceberg bears down on the Alliance but remains unseen as the ship is becalmed in a fog bank – a miasma so thick that one’s eyes must be forsaken for one’s ears. The iceberg’s breakup in the warming southern waters creates a small tsunami that sweeps over the vessel. Then as quickly as the tidal wave leaves the ship, an eerie calm is restored … but short-lived.
Photo Credit: Olivier Fahrni
The Alliance eventually rounds Cape St. Francis and heads up Conception Bay. Below the view of the Cape from Flat Head.
The ship passes Carbonear Island where sheep are observed grazing on the tender new green shoots of the fertile spring soil. This tradition of bringing ewes and lambs to the safety of offshore islands remains very much alive in Newfoundland and, in the autumn of 2020, there were numerous media stories about the practice. Many swear that saltwater lamb is unrivalled in terms of taste.
Photo Credit: Lisa B. Sells
When I fished with my father, we only ever fished the grounds between Salmon Cove and Carbonear Island. That way, if the prevailing south west wind came up, it was far easier to get home safely.