From 1950-1970, in the fight against Tuberculosis, Captain Peter Troake guided the MV Christmas Seal around hundreds of Newfoundland and Labrador communities. At the helm of this activity, he did so much more than merely navigate the ship of hope. It was his sincere ability to communicate and reach local people that won their trust and brought them on board for the feared but vital x-rays.
Captain Troake was recognized for his outstanding contribution in the field of health by being named to the Order of Canada in 1987. In 1997, shortly before his death, he received The Lung Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
The MV Christmas Seal
The Lung Association Newfoundland and Labrador, formerly known as the Newfoundland Tuberculosis Association, was confronted with the task of surveying about 80,000 Newfoundlanders scattered along 6000 miles of rocky coast and inhabiting 1300 isolated communities. The only practical method of reaching these widely dispersed communities was by boat.
On September 10, 1947, the Newfoundland Tuberculosis Association reached an agreement with the U.S. Government to purchase a “crash” boat from the Argentina Naval Base. The boat was financed through the sale of Christmas Seals and later named, by Richard Daley of St. Mary’s, the Christmas Seal. The Christmas Seal was staffed with doctors, nurses, technicians, health educators, and crew, all dedicated to fighting TB in the Province. It travelled to hundreds of navigable habours of Newfoundland and Labrador, carrying the Cross of Lorraine at the mast head. She soon became a familiar and welcome sight, known as a symbol of health for old and young. When the Christmas Seal reached the harbour, chest x-rays, tuberculin testing, and BCG vaccines were administered on the boat as well as an extensive educational campaign on the causes, treatment, and prevention of TB.
The Christmas Seal and its staff played a vital role in the battle of TB within this province. While TB has been controlled, we are now focusing our efforts on other respiratory illnesses such as asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and lung cancer.