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September 21, 2018

Canadian Maritime Project Has An Oswego Connection


OSWEGO, NY – A piece of history with an Oswego connection is being recognized a few hundred miles to the north.

At Memorial University, St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada, the faculty of Arts’ Maritime History Archive received grants that will result in the exhibition of two major new projects on its website a bit later this month.

One of them, “Dead Reckoning: Rescue, Race and Cultural Awakening on the South Coast of Newfoundland,” tells the story of three U.S. naval vessels – the USS Pollux, Truxtun and Wilkes.

The ships were involved in one of the worst disasters ever recorded in Newfoundland’s naval history.

“Dead Reckoning: Rescue, Race and Cultural Awakening on the South Coast of Newfoundland,” tells the story of three U.S. naval vessels – the USS Pollux, Truxtun and Wilkes. One of the Truxtun's fatalities was Charles Crisafulli of Oswego.

“Dead Reckoning: Rescue, Race and Cultural Awakening on the South Coast of Newfoundland,” tells the story of three U.S. naval vessels – the USS Pollux, Truxtun and Wilkes. One of the Truxtun's fatalities was Charles Crisafulli of Oswego.

“We are creating a website to tell the story of the disaster, as a tribute to all the men who lost their lives on the USS Pollux and USS Truxtun in February of 1942. We want to gather information about the sailors and the rescue participants,” said Heather Wareham, archivist with the Maritime History Archive at Memorial University, St. John’s, NL.

According to an article that appeared in the university’s newspaper: “Using dead reckoning, the process of estimating one’s current position based upon a previously determined position and advancing that position based upon known or estimated speeds, as a means of navigation, the vessels ran aground in a raging winter storm near St. Lawrence on Newfoundland’s south coast on Feb. 18, 1942. More than 200 lives were lost but the ensuing rescue of more than 180 American sailors from certain death remains one of the most significant and dramatic rescues in Canadian history.”

Among the Truxtun’s casualties was Charles Crisafulli of Oswego – the first war fatality from the Port City.

“Dead Reckoning” will highlight the most famous survivor from the Truxtun, Wareham said.

“We will also include a section about Lanier Phillips, an African American. He received an honorary degree from Memorial University in 2008,” she said.

Phillips lectures across North America about how his life was changed by his encounter with Newfoundlanders – the first white people to treat him with respect, Wareham added.

The project will use archival documents, images, sound and film segments to tell the story.

It will also include a timeline, biographies of some of the survivors and an interactive segment where the few remaining survivors, family members, friends and descendants of victims and rescuers can tell their stories.

“We are trying to collect as much biographical information about the sailors as possible and we would like to include their photograph along with their bio,” Wareham told Oswego County Today.com. “Any information anyone could provide us would be greatly appreciated!”

Anybody with information to share may send it directly to Wareham at [email protected]

Or, her mailing address is Maritime History Archive, Memorial University, St. John’s, NL, A1C 5S7 Canada.

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