“The Greenland Disaster (I)”


A sealing expedition leaves St. John's for the ice fields and all is well. When the men reached the ice, a storm comes up and freezes them. There are 25 dead and 23 missing. The singer concludes by hoping his audience will pray with him.

Supplemental text

Greenland Disaster (I), The
  Partial text(s)

          *** A ***

As printed in Ryan & Small, Haulin' Rope & Gaff, pp. 48-49. From the second (1940)
edition of Doyle's Old Time Songs and Poetry of Newfoundland.

Ye tender hearded Christians, I hope you will attend
To these few feeling verses that I have lately penned.
Listen to my mournful story; your grief it will renew
When I relate the hardships that befell the Greenland's crew.

They sailed from St. John's Harbour all on the tenth of March,
Commanded by Captain Barbour, the ice fields for to search;
With colors flying gaily they gave three hearty cheers,
But mark what followed after, you quickly shall hear.

(11 additional stanzas)

NOTE: Other versions rearrange the first stanzas significantly.
Doyle (who splits the song into half stanzas) begins with verse
2A, followed by 1B. They have several verses in common from there
before diverging again.


Horace Beck in his book _Folklore and the Sea_ (Mystic Conn.: Mystic Seaport Museum, 1985), p. 208 gives a brief account of sealing disasters in Newfoundland that he obtained from George A. England, _Vikings of the Ice_ (London, 1924) pp. 54-59. - SH

This song is item dD34 in Laws's Appendix II. Laws knew only the version in Greenleaf/Mansfield; obviously it is more popular than he thought.

The versions of this song are very diverse; Blondahl's, e.g., tells the story of the disaster in detail, while Doyle's is a bit briefer on that account but spends many stanzas detailing the names of the dead. Some of this may be caused by the vast numbers of Greenland Disaster poems floating about; Ryan/Small have four probably non-traditional versions in addition to the two traditional forms (this and "The Greenland Disaster (II)." - RBW

Historical references

  • Mar 21, 1898 - Greenland disaster

Cross references


  1. Doyle2, pp. 40-41, "The Greenland Disaster" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. Greenleaf/Mansfield 146, "The Greenland Disaster" (1 text, 1 tune)
  3. Blondahl, p. 79, "The Greenland Disaster" (1 text, 1 tune)
  4. Ryan/Small, pp. 46-51, "The Greenland Disaster (1)," "The Greenland Disaster (2)" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
  5. ST Doy40 (Partial)
  6. Roud #4080
  7. BI, Doy40


Author: Mrs. John Walsh ?
Earliest date: 1929 (Greenleaf/Mansfield)
Found in: Canada(Newf)