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The forgotten story of the S.S. Atlantic shipwreck gets unearthed in new doc

Friday, September 18th 2020, 7:15 pm - The story of the SS Atlantic's 1873 deadly crash is now being unearthed in new short documentary, "SS Atlantic".

New light is being shed on the scale of the disaster that was the SS Atlantic in a new documentary premiering at this year's FIN Atlantic Film Festival.

Filmmaker Christopher Devanney is from Prospect and says he used to hear ghost stories growing up which always fascinated him. He says the story is a piece of Canadian history that somehow got lost.

The short documentary brings you back to April fools day, 1873, when a 420 foot White Star Liner carrying almost 1,000 people crashed into the rocky shoreline off Lower Prospect, killing some 560 people.

All women and children were killed aside from one boy, and about 400 men survived due to the rescue efforts of poor fisherfolk from Prospect.

"The people of Prospect had just went through what they call a long hungry March," says Devanney, "where all their food rations were depleted. And they gave food, clothing shelter, bandaged the wounds of all these injured people and really, they had nothing to give but gave everything."

The ship had encountered a storm on the way over from Ireland and burned more coal than usual so the Captain diverted to Halifax. Westerly currents and winds then knocked it off course about 15 kilometres.

In the film, resident Mike Duggan explains "If it hadn't been for the people in the villages to take care of them and bring them to their homes, they would have frozen to death on the rocks. Sub-zero temperatures in the water, it was rough, wet, they were soaking. And the few survivors that did get to the rocks, they would have just froze there during the day."

Some 560 people had to be buried following the wreck and there are two mass graves in the area.

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