Natural Resources

Avalanches

Date: Feb 9, 1877

Location: Betts Cove

Easting: 587000

Northing: 5519100

Latitude: 49° 49' 00" N

Longitude: 55° 47' 00" W

Fatalities: 6

Injuries: 0

Source: "When Was That" by Mosdell; The Public Ledger, Thurs March 22, 1877 and The Times 21 and 24, March 1877

Betts Cove today is a peaceful rocky cove on the Baie Verte Peninsula, accessible only by boat. In the late 19th century, however it was a thriving town, built around a copper mine, with upwards of 2000 people crammed into the small valley surrounded by steep cliffs. Discovered by Robert Knight, the claims were developed by Baron Francis von Ellershausen, a German entrepreneur, who imported miners from his homeland to work with Newfoundlanders. The mine's heyday was in the late 1870s and between 1875 and 1878, more than 75,000 tons of ore left Betts Cove for Swansea. The town inevitably expanded to the foot of the cliffs that surrounded the community, and on 9 February 1877 two houses were struck by an avalanche, destroying them completely. The Courier reported this in its March 24 issue - indicating how slowly news traveled from rural Newfoundland to the capital at that time.

We are indebted to a friend for the following extract of a letter received by him from Bett's Cove dates February 9th. "I am sorry to say my position is not an enjoyable one. We lost five children by a snow avalanche, and had one man severely injured. This happened today, and we have been all morning digging them out of the snow. There were thirty four persons in the two houses which were buried ten feet. It is a mercy not more were killed" It is rarely that we are called on to chronicle a land disaster in this country of so wholesale a character as described above.

The report goes on to recount that the injured man later died.

 
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