Grim Survival of the Ship Research


Margaret Atwood once argued that

  1. “every country or culture has a single unifying and informing symbol at its core. ... The symbol, then – be it word, phrase, idea, image, or all of these – functions like a system of beliefs ... which holds the country together and helps the people in it to co-operate for common ends.” [1, p. 31]

  2. “The central symbol for Canada ... is undoubtedly Survival, la Survivance. ... For early explorers and settlers, it meant bare survival in the face of ‘hostile’ elements and/or natives: carving out a place and a way of keeping alive. But the word can also suggest survival of a crisis or disaster, like a hurricane or a wreck, and many Canadian poems have this kind of survival as a theme; what you might call ‘grim’ survival as opposed to ‘bare’ survival.” [1, p. 32]

For Canadians, “A Voyage with many Rudders!” is an exemplar of the grim survival of a ship and its crew. But the story’s relevance for us is particularly great because the ship was built by a Yarmouth builder for a Yarmouth businessman, her captain was born in Yarmouth, and her mate was born near Yarmouth in Brooklyn, built an imposing summer residence overlooking Darling’s Lake, and was buried in the Darling’s Lake cemetery. Among our local neighbours and friends are relations of the story’s protagonists.

Below are images of the ship Research, and of her captain and mate for that archetypal voyage of grim survival.

References and Notes

    [1] Margaret Atwood, Survival: A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature. House of Anansi Press, Toronto, 1972. 287 pp.

    [2] I thank Jamie Serran, Archivist at the Yarmouth County Museum and Archives, for providing access to many images. I am grateful to Bonnie Churchill Kenney for her comments concerning the Churchill photographs below.

William Day (1 February 2013)