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Avalanches

Date: Winter, 1781/82

Location: Nain

Easting: ?

Northing: ?

Latitude: 56° 32' 00" N

Longitude: 61° 41' 00" W

Fatalities: 22

Injuries: ?

Source: NAC MG17 D1 B-X-1 pp.38,750 et ff., microfilm reel M-509

The earliest recorded Canadian avalanche

Wallace J.McLean, a keen historian and Labradorian in the course of his researches came across an account of a dreadful tragedy in the Nain area in the late 18th century. Mr. McLean was studying the Moravian Mission papers from Labrador and found, in a postscript to a 1782 letter signed "your sincear well wishers, the Missionarys at Nain and in their names" the following:

"A Lamentable Circumstance has happened this last winter [i.e. 1781-82] about twelve miles from us [i.e., at Nain], upon the edge of a hill under which was an Esquimaux winter hauss where 31 Esquimaux lived, there gather'd a monstrous body of snow which shot all at once down and pressed the winter hauss even with the ground, with all the people in it excepting one man who was buried in the snow without. Out of 31 only 9 got out alive".

This avalanche is thus the earliest recorded avalanche in Canada - possibly in North America, the worst avalanche disaster in the history of the province, and the worst avalanche disaster in Canada to affect people in their houses. It is also the worst avalanche disaster in eastern Canada. The coastline around Nain contains numerous steep slopes and the exact location of this incident is unlikely to be discovered. It is likely that many other Inuit people have died, unrecorded, over the years along the Labrador coast, where heavy snowfall, and steep slopes form a deadly combination.

 
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