The S. S. Florizel, built by the C. O’ Connell and Company Limited, was commissioned by the Bowring Brothers
in 1909 to replace the shipwrecked Silvia as the flagship of the Bowrings Red Cross Line. As with all other Bowring
Red Cross Line vessels, the interior construct of the ship was extremely luxurious, complete with first-class accommodation
for 145 and second-class accommodation for 36. The exterior construct of the ship was no less impressive. Equipped
with ultra-modern equipment including a submarine signaling apparatus and wireless, the ship was constructed of steel and
was one of the first ships in the world specifically designed to navigate ice. It was an impressive 93m (305ft) long,
9 m (30ft) deep and 1,980 tons net. As per the insurance records, the Florizel was valued at approximately $700,000,
an astounding monetary investment for the period.
The S.S Florizel was primarily used as a passenger liner, although, it was modified seasonally to serve as a sealing
vessel. For example, for many years, the ship acted as a transport ship during World War I. In 1914, the ship
had the distinction of carrying the first 500 volunteers (the Blue Puttees) of the Newfoundland regiment to Europe.
The ship continued operation until its last and tragic voyage on February 23, 1918. En route, from St. John’s
to Halifax and New York the S.S. Florizel shipwrecked north of Cape Race, off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador carrying
seventy-eight passengers and sixty crew members, as well as $250,000.00 worth of cargo. The ship was damaged beyond
repair and sadly, only seventeen passengers and twenty-seven crew members survived the disaster.
The Florizel had many voyages but the voyage of February 23rd, 1918 is remembered the most. This tragedy happened
about 83 years ago, 12 miles off Renews in Horn Head, Cappahayden. The Florizel was a boat that shipped passengers to
Halifax, Nova Scotia to New York.
The Florizel left the harbour about 7:30 pm and just before the ship got out of the harbour the weather
turned for the worst. Navigation started to become very bad for the captain, it was a bad storm with gale force winds and
the Florizel had then just encountered ice. At about 4:40 am Captain William Martian thought they were off Horn Head Point,
but the engineer who was working on the engine had slowed it down so he would be able to spend an extra night with his girlfriend
in Nova Scotia, so they were going slower than the Captain thought. When the Captain ordered the crew to change course they
ran aground on Horn Head Point.
They passengers and crew members had to try to save themselves because the weather was to fierce
to launch the lifeboats. Watchers of this incident sent for help, and shortly after the S.S Terra Nova, S.S Hawk, and the
S.S. Cape Breton were on their way to help. On this ship there was 148 people sailing across. Seventy crew members and 78
passengers. Out of this tragic accident their was 44 survivors, and 94 people lost and never seen again.
Also on this ship there was a little girl named Betty Munn who was sailing
with her father, was tore from his arms in this disaster. This little girl was from St. John's and she was 3 and a half years
old. In memory of her death there is a statue of Peter Pan (the fairy tale she loves most) in Bowring Park.
After this horrible disaster Captain William Martian was held responsible and died shortly after this tragedy happened.
4:40 a.m. The Captain realizes the ship is off course. He tries to correct but the Florizel runs aground at Horn Head
Point a short distance from shore. The ship begins to break apart on the rocks. Fishermen from Cappahayden watch from the
shore unable to help because of high seas.
11:30 a.m. The Gordon C. and Terra Nova leave St. John’s for Cape Race to help.
12:45 p.m. The Home leaves St. John’s to help.
3:44 p.m. The Hawk leaves St. John’s to help.
4:00 p.m. A group that traveled by train from St. John’s arrives to help but must watch from the shore because
of high seas.
Dusk: The Gordon C. arrives first, finds no signs of life and returns to Fermeuse.
6:00 a.m. The Home arrives and stays.
9:00 a.m. The Hawk arrives. They see light but are unable to get near The Florizel.
1:00 a.m. The Prospero arrives from Marystown. They are still unable to reach Florizel. Over 40 survivors are confirmed.
4:00 a.m. The Gordon C. and Terra Nova return. The seas became moderate. 17 passengers and 27 crew members are rescued.
94 people are confirmed dead.