In the pre-dawn hours of February 18, 1942, three American warships zigzagged in convoy along the south coast of Newfoundland. Caught in a raging blizzard, the three ships ran aground on one of the most inhospitable stretches of coastline in the world—less than three miles apart, within eight minutes of each other. The Wilkes freed herself. The Truxtun and Pollux could not. Fighting frigid temperatures, wild surf, and a heavy oil slick, a few sailors, through ingenuity and sheer grit, managed to gain shore—only to be stranded under cliffs some 200 feet high. From there, local miners mounted an arduous rescue mission.
Based on eyewitness accounts of survivors and rescuers, and corroborated by archival and historical research, Bett Fitzpatrick tells the story of the men who saved themselves, the miners who carried survivors up the cliffs on their backs, and to the people of St. Lawrence who opened their homes and their hearts to the victims.
Among them are seaman Edward Bergeron, who scaled the cliff and brought help, Lanier Phillips, the only black man to survive, Ena, who collected food and blankets and snapped the only pictures of that horrific day, and Clara, who took the last survivor home and nursed him through the night.