Natural Resources

Avalanches

Date: Jan 23, 1895

Location: Bluff Head Brook Chromite Mine

Easting: 385000

Northing: 5402900

Latitude: 48° 47' 00" N

Longitude: 58° 37' 00" W

Fatalities: 4

Injuries: 0

Source: Howley JP. 1997 Reminiscences of James P. Howley: Selected Years, edited by Kirwin WJ, Story GM and O¹Flaherty PA. The Champlain society, Toronto, 438p, page 325.
Evening Telegram Jan 28, 1895.

The accident occurred during mine operations high in the Lewis Hills at Bluff Head Brook. The story was told first by JP Howley in his memoirs of field work on the west coast, and also by ED Haliburton in his history of mining on the western part of the Island, published in 1919. Haliburton tells of a Mr. Holden, who traveled from St. Johns in 1894 to set up an operation to mine chromite in the Lewis Hills. "The mine was nearly up to the top of the mountain, which formed one side of the gulch terminating at the bottom in Bluff Head Cove. The huts where the men lived were built on a sort of terrace about half-way up this mountain and to get to the mine they had to traverse a path that curved around and upward". On 23 January 1895, four miners left to clear this path. This group included Mr Holden's brother Thomas, Patric Byrne, Laughlin, and McKinnon. They were shoveling the path when apparently they triggered an avalanche that swept down the slope carrying all four with it. Howley states all four were killed, but Haliburton suggests that one, further from the centre of the avalanche, was swept down two or three hundred feet, but survived.

The site of the mine is still visible, in one of the large bowl shaped cirques that form the edge of the Lewis Hills. Such areas are very vulnerable to avalanche, and although no mining takes place in this area now, this tragedy serves as an illustration of the dangers of such areas to the current day snow-mobiler or back-country skier. Howley writes as follows: "The mine is situated at the head of a deep ravine through which Bluff Head Brook meanders. The ravine forms a perfect amphitheatre and it is at the extreme bend at its head that the ore occurs, just inside the boundary line behind Capt. Cleary's and Jones' lots. This is the same place where the disastrous snow-slide took place last spring twelve months which buried or killed three or four men, Holden's brother amongst the rest. Holden showed us where the bodies were found away down in the valley below. The men were cutting a path across the foot of the snow bank to get over to where they were working for asbestos, on west side of the Brook, when without a moment¹s warning the whole great mass of snow and ice above gave way and precipitate itself down into the ravine. It must have been a regular avalanche. Poor fellows! They were hurled into Eternity in a moment. It must have been an awful sight when the poor mangled bodies were recovered. The men are now at work stripping the surface as to expose the chromite and I fear further accidents will take place if they are not very careful."

 
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