The story of Howard Blackburn's life epitomizes
the classic theme of man against nature. In January, 1883,
Blackburn, a young Nova Scotian fisherman, signed onto the
Gloucester schooner Grace L. Fears. The schooner was bound
for the Burgeo Bank, a rich fishing ground 60 miles south
of Newfoundland. She was in search of halibut, the large flounder-like
fish that can weigh upwards of 400 lbs.
Blackburn and his dorymate Thomas Welch had
become separated from the fishing schooner during a sudden
squall and found themselves nearly sixty miles from the nearest
land. Over the course of the ensuing five-day ordeal, Welch
would give up and succumb to a merciful death, whereas Blackburn
would allow his bare hands to freeze to the shape of the oars,
and row until he reached land.
Though Blackburn survived he ultimately suffered
the loss of most of his fingers and toes due to frostbite.
In spite of his handicap, he later went on to twice sail solo
across the Atlantic Ocean, earning himself the title “The
The incredible story of Howard Blackburn
is told in Lone
Voyager by Joseph E. Garland
the Blackburn Challenge