Shortly before Christmas 1919, a ship carrying 92 passengers plus its crew got caught in a huge storm off the coast of Newfoundland and started to sink. But thanks to the efforts of a brave dog, everyone was saved.
THE STORY is true, and Hilary Hyland of Centreville's Virginia Run community wrote a children's book, "The Wreck of the Ethie," based on it. And last Friday, she related the tale to hundreds of students at Bull Run Elementary.
She got the idea for the book from her daughter Haley who'd read about the shipwreck in a book on the training of Newfoundland dogs. So Hyland researched the story for two years and, in fall 1999, published her work of historical fiction.
"In 2000, it won the Maxwell medal for Best Children's Book, and in 2002, my program based on it won the Telly award," she said. "I give a PowerPoint presentation of the actual event, tying in my story to history."
After the SS Ethie left Port Saunders, Newfoundland, en route to St. John's Harbor, the raging storm caused the steamship to flounder on the rocks off Newfoundland's northwestern coast. With everyone in danger of drowning, a fishing family on shore sent its Newfoundland dog out to the ship to get a rope and bring it back again so rescuers could try to save the people on board.
"It's believed to be the largest number of people ever saved by a dog," said Hyland. "He even saved a baby who was placed in a mailbag" and floated to shore via the rope and a pulley.
HYLAND HAS a Newfoundland dog of her own, Teddy Bear, and he accompanies her to her presentations at various elementary schools. "I go to Loudoun, Fairfax and Prince William county schools, and also to Montgomery County, Md., and even to Georgia," she said. "I've been to more than 200 schools throughout the last few years, and Teddy Bear is always a huge hit with the children."
She shows the students artifacts from the rescue, including a copy of the ship captain's log and a newspaper photo of the mailbag and the woman who was carried to safety in it.
"I really enjoy going to the schools because I love talking to the kids and, hopefully, helping history come alive for them," said Hyland. "And I want them to keep in mind that there are wonderful books of historical fiction and non-fiction, and that stories are all around them, in real life."
For more information, see www.hilaryhyland.com.