Recollections of the Tsunami

This page is from a heritage partnered project. It was written in 1998 by students from Mount Pearl Junior High and edited by their teachers. It has not been vetted by the heritage website's academic editor.

When people think of earthquakes and tidal waves, they often think of places like California or Japan. People fail to realize that Newfoundland and Labrador has had its own activity. On January 21,1809 an earthquake shook Labrador's shores. On November 30, 1836 tremors were recorded in the Hopedale region. But the largest quake occurred on the Burin Peninsula. Claiming 27 lives, it measured 7.2 on the Richter scale (7 on the Rossi-Forel scale). The total damage came to more then $1 000 000. Even though the material goods could and were eventually replaced nothing could ever replace the twenty-seven victims of the disaster.

Here is the interview that was done with Mrs. Rita Kearley about that horrifying day:

The day the "Great Wave; hit was a hard day, especially for the parents of Mrs. Rita Kearley. Mrs. Rita Kearley was born in October of 1930; 11 months after the tsunami hit the Bruin Peninsula. Mrs. Kearley was told all about the wave; how it affected the land, the sea, the people, and the town. Her parents were fortunate enough to survive that night, however they lost Mrs. Kearley's grandmother and their three children (Mrs. Kearley's sister and her brothers).

"It was 5 o'clock, suppertime, when the big tremors shook the houses and the land. It rattled the dishes in the cupboards, scaring everyone very much. Measuring 7.2 on the Richter Scale, it was almost the same strength as the big earthquake in Los Angles, California, in the early 1990's. After a few minutes the tremors passed and everyone continued with their chores."

The parents of Rita Kearley (Hepditch) went to a party, at the Loyal Orange Lodge hall, which started at 8 p.m. They left to walk from Point Aux Gaul to Lameline, the site of the party. The children stayed at home with their grandmother.

At 7 p.m. the water came in one big wave. It toppled over the Hepditch house and swept it out to sea, taking the grandmother and the three children with it. All the people in the area from Point Aux Gaul to Nantes Cove to Taylor's Bay were too scared to go to the shore lines so they escaped to the woods in the hills. They lit the schoolhouse, which was on the hill, on fire. This drew most people's attention so they could get up to the school house area and away from the water. Unfortunately, not everyone got there in time.

In all, 14 people from the area died and 12 more died in the Burin area of the peninsula. All four bodies from the Hepditch family was found the next day, down by the beach. The second oldest, Henry, was found on the shore clinging to the motor box on a dory, with not a drop of water in it. He died of exposure to the elements. Surprisingly, a horse which was taken out to sea with the wave, swam safely back to shore and survived the whole ordeal."

Victims Included:

  • Point Aux Gaul
    • Thomas George Hillier, age 44 years
    • Elizabeth Ann Hillier, age 65 years (Mrs. Kearley's grandmother)
    • Verena Deborah Hillier, age 10 years
    • Thomas George Hepditch, age 5 years (Mrs. Kearley's brother)
    • Henry Percival Hepditch, age 3 years (Mrs. Kearley's brother)
    • Elizabeth Esther Hepditch, age 8 months (Mrs. Kearley's sister)
  • Taylor's Bay
    • Bridget Susannah Bonnell, age 25 years
    • Amelia Alice Bonnell, age unknown
    • Mary Gertrude Bonnell, age 1 year
    • John Lewis Bonnell, age 3 years
    • Clayton Bertram Bonnell, age 7 months
    • William Cyril Piercey, age 1 month
  • Nantes Cove
    • Mary Elizabeth Walsh, age 59 years
    • Mary Ann Walsh, age 80 years

Burin Area

In Burin, only one house was lost. This house floated out to sea with a mother and three children inside. In the window of the house, a lamp, still burning, rocked gently back and forth, not tipping over. The mother and two of her children died, but the baby, who was upstairs asleep in a cradle, survived. Most houses, if harmed at all, were washed up on the road with little damage.

Bay de L'Eau Area

In Bay de L'Eau, where Mr. Kearley is from, some damage occurred and it was mainly from flooding. Mr. Kearley's father's home was flooded. His two-month-old bother, Reg, was in his cradle and it was floating in the kitchen. When his father came home, he had to put on his hip rubbers because the water was so deep in the house.

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