M u s e u m  C r e a t e d  L e s s o n

Catastrophe à la mine d’or de Moose River


Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Halifax, Nova Scotia

Broadcasting to the World

J. Frank Willis, a Maritime radio announcer with CRBC, also wanted to be at the Moose River mine disaster site when he learned about it on Easter Monday. But he was denied permission to do an on the spot broadcast until Monday, April 20th, when he finally received the go ahead from his superiors. He left Halifax for Moose River immediately, arriving in the late afternoon. It was now Day 8.

His first broadcast that Monday lasted 15 minutes:

“It is a frozen country down here – drab and desolate; a country of scrub and second growth of rock – rock – relentless, hard, cruel-hard.  It is against rock of this sort that miners for the past week have fought and fought grim lipped, determined…”

Thereafter, Willis did two or three minute bulletins every half hour for the next 56 hours.
His broadcasts were an historic first – a groundbreaking round the clock coverage of a news event carried across Canada on all 58 of its stations and connecting to 650 stations in the United States and the United Kingdom – heard by more than 100 million listeners. 

At 2 a.m. on Thursday, April 23rd, J. Frank Willis ended a total of 99 consecutive broadcasts from the Moose River mine with a terse:

“This is for the world:  they have been saved.  They are out of the mine.”

With these broadcasts, made without operational error, Willis turned radio into a reliable hard news source. The immediacy and professionalism of his descriptive bulletins demonstrated radio’s capability to deliver breaking news on the spot from remote locations. Public radio thereafter would no longer be just a medium for music, occasional news events and dramas.
Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Dian Day, Susan Sellers, Rita Wilson
Moose River, Nova Scotia, CANADA

© 2013, Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. All Rights Reserved.
Learning Object Collection: Gold in Nova Scotia
Learning Object: Disaster at Moose River Gold Mine
Institution: Art Gallery of Nova Scotia