Historic Events

 

The Great Tidal Wave Disaster of 1929




The Dover Connection.

 

At approximately 7:30 pm on the evening of November 18, 1929 the largest tidal wave to hit the eastern seaboard of North America crashed into the southeast coast of Newfoundland destroying dozens of communties and sweeping houses out to sea, taking 28 lives on the island and another in Cape Breton.

 

 At 5:02, about two and a half hours earlier, a shift along the same fault line that runs through the Town of Dover caused a earthquake measuring 7.2 on the richter scale, centred at a depth of 18 km beneath the earth's crust at an ocean depth of 2,000 metres. The quake caused a massive landslide in which a huge section of the continental slope of about 200 cubic kilometres plunged into the Solm Abyssal Plains at a speed of up to 70 km per hour.

 

This massive slump, in turn, created a long wavelength disturbance generating three tsunami pulses which stuck the Burin Peninsula over the span of 20 minutes.

 

The late Precilla Willis, a resident of Dover, was living in Butcher's Cove at the time with her mother and father-in-law. She said she was downstairs at the time sitting in her rocking chair. They heard a loud noise, like thunder she recalls, only louder and different. The oven doors on the old wood stove were shaking and the stove started to smoke. She remembers thinking the house was going to be on fire. Her mother-in-law told her the tide was rising higher and no one seemed to know what was happening. She said that they were terrified and didn't really know what happened until days later because there were no radios or televisions at that time. The water level had risen very high, you could not walk along the beach area.

 

The late Mrs.Evelyn Collins worked in the Post Office at Hare Bay. She got the news saying there was a tidal wave at Burin on the south coast of Newfoundland.

 

The Late Ronald Hunt was 9 years old when the earthquake occurred. Mr. Hunt was at Butcher's Cove playing when everything started trembling and then he saw the trees shaking. A pile of wood seven feet high fell down and he was told that people were holding onto the pots on their stoves to keep them from falling off. There was a roar in the air that seemed to last for a half an hour and some people thought that Buchan's mine had blown up.


 

Dover Plane Crash


The above picture shows the seventy plus men pulling ashore the Digby B-18 Bomber wreckage. While they were hauling the airplane ashore, the men sang the traditional "boat hauling" song Johnny Poker.

Here's a verse:

Oh, it's me, Johnny Poker,

Another jit will do'er;

And it's to me, Johnny Poker

Haul, boys,haul. ( Everyone hauls. )

 


On the morning of January 2, 1942, R.C.A.F. Digby B-18 Bomber number 738 departed Gander Airport on a convey patrol mission. About 40 minutes later, one of the Wright Cyclone engines sent vibrations through the plane, causing the propeller to "feather" and the plane began to lose altitude. Two bombs were jettisoned over  Salt Water Pond in Dover, and First Officer  D.G.J. Malty had to make an emergency landing in the water near the coastal line.

 

The plane was extensively damaged but the crew escaped with only slight injuries. When the master switch was turned on, a fire broke out in the cabin. The crew was forced to leave the plane. Fortunately, residents from Dover who had witnessed the crash had already left to look for survivors. Once it was determined that all on board were unharmed in the crash, the residents responded with warm homes and hospitality.

 

Drenched and shivering in the January air, six crewmen reached the beach in a dinghy. One of the rescuers, Mr. Nathan Parsons, took the men back to his home by horse and sleigh where his wife, Mrs Mary Parsons, was waiting for his return with the wood stove banked, moose soup and hot tea brewing. The men were given dry clothing while Mrs Parsons ironed uniforms. The crewmen  were airlifted back to Gander, but only after their Commanding Officer had eaten 2 bowls of Mrs Parsons's delicious moose soup.

 

The Parsons family also played host to two of the mechanics who stayed for 17 days while dismantling the wreckage of the plane. The remaining parts can be seen at the Dover Fault Interpretation Center and Lookout.

 

Many of the older members of the community have great stories to tell regarding the events that occurred that eventful day. The site where the bombs were dropped is now used as a local swimming area by many of the members of the community.