Newsletter - Save Ontario Shipwrecks
November 2005 - 4
ISSN NO 1180-1972
Newsletter of Save Ontario Shipwrecks, Inc.
P.O. Box 2389
Fax : 519-676-7058
Shirley and Nino Mangione
149 Walden Drive
Kanata , Ontario
PUBLISHED FOUR TIMES A YEAR
February, May, August, November
This issue published November I, 2005
Cover graphics by B.M. Prince.
We encourage reproduction of our Newsletter contents. Credits should
read: From the SOS Newsletter, date of issue, a publication of Save
Opinions expressed by contributors to the Newsletter are not necessarily
those of the Editors or the Board of SOS.
The SOS Newsletter is published by Save Ontario Shipwrecks (SOS), a
non-profit charitable organization dedicated to furthering public knowledge and appreciation of Ontario's Marine Heritage.
Save Ontario Shipwrecks gratefully acknowledges the support and financial assistance of the Ministry of Culture
M A R
G Q y
Q x T
K S S
D C y
W A E
E P K
R T K
A A S
T I C
D L N L
K N U B
T E J S
Jim Hopkins, SOS President
The Province of Ontario is now proceeding with the next of phase of developing its marine heritage program. This work is centred on the Ontario Heritage
Amendment Act, 2005, a part of Bill 60. As you read this column , the consultation phase of this process will just be concluding. For some, this will be the
most controversial area, but in my opinion the potential lies here, for Ontario to
truly take a leadership role in Great Lake marine heritage preservation.
Divided into 5 phases, it will be the first two that may leave some people or
groups upset. The first deals with proposed heritage value criteria for all marine
heritage sites in Ontario. It will not be so much the criteria that will be called
into question but what it will be used for since the Ministry of Culture in now
"empowered to prescribe specific marine archaeological sites in regulation for
specific protection." In other words, some sites will be off limits.
This is what those who deal in fear mongering will try and prey on. "They want
the wrecks to themselves" they will say, "I should be able to dive that." It must
be remembered that this is all about common sense and it is with that in mind
that SOS has crafted its position regarding changes to the Heritage Act over the
past three years, we have sent a clear consistent message and will continue to
do so. We have said "yes there are wrecks that deserve special protection, but to
be credible the list must be kept to an absolute minimum," otherwise any
"special" designation would be trivialized be the numbers designated as
The criteria as put forward by the province for heritage sites to be considered
for the "special" designation status (please see the SOS website for details) is in
my opinion well laid out and all-inclusive. Examining the criteria many would
be surprised to find that out of the box, only three sites were place on the
protected list, the Hamilton, Scourge and the Edmund Fitzgerald. At the present
time I cannot think of another site that should be put on this list. This is after all
about developing stewardship of our heritage, not restricting access.
The second area that will disturb some is licensing. Maybe it is just me, but I
find it odd that some divers will spend hours, in many cases years developing
their dive skills and further spend time to develop their archaeological skills , but
then complain if they have to take the time to fill out an archaeological license
to do survey work. Here again SOS has promoted a common sense approach
based on the United Kingdoms Protected Historic Wrecks Act. There would be 4
levels of licensing from basic to what would amount to a full-scale archaeological survey. It would be most important that the basic level involve a simple
application that can be quick to fill out and quickly approved so as not
The last three phases will be (3) General standards and guidelines, (4) Outreach
Programs and (5) Information. Technology Development." Item three is relative
to licensing and why it is required, so that information collected across the
province is done so in a standardized format. In years past when Peter Englebert
was at the ministry, SOS chapters played an active role in this area, collecting
information and monitoring wrecks in their region and submitting the work to
the ministry. With a marine archaeologist again in position, there will be much
work for us to do here. Chapters running NAS courses will be able to put their
graduates to work , monitoring and documenting wrecks in their area.
Outreach and Information technology development have a huge potential. This
ranges from developing programs for school children and educational programs
for divers to the province developing a marine heritage website. This website
would be so valuable. It would offer a place for marine heritage information
collected across the province to be placed, for all to see, not filed away in a
closet somewhere. A look at websites in Minnesota and Wisconsin show the
economic reasons shipping existed, coal, iron, lumber etc. and the types of ships
involved from freighters to fishing boats. As I mentioned at the beginning, the
potential here is endless as are the possibilities for SOS to participate.
It is time for all organizations to work towards developing a well balanced set of
guidelines that not only protects our marine heritage , but also is respectful of the
rights of divers and further to contribute to the knowledge of all. I am pleased to
say SOS is well positioned to do so.
by Walt Irie
At our last meeting Mike Babiski gave us an interesting presentation about his
collection of antique diving helmets along with a history of diving in Canada.
I've attached photos of the helmets along with a dive boot which weighs 25
lbs! Mike will be giving us another presentation this fall on the history of
John Dade equipment (a Canadian manufacturer of diving equipment from the
1800's) along with stories of the men using it. We will be working with Mike
on doing a hard hat course in the New Year.
Erika Laanela, the Provincial Marine Archaeologist is looking for volunteers
to assist with a survey of the Steamboat Geneva Sept 23rd to 25th up at Lake
Couchiching (north of Lake Simcoe). The wreck is located in waist deep
water close to shore . Please contact Erika for information if you're interested
in assisting with the project. http://www.ricelakeinfo.com/trentww.htm#geneva
I've attached a picture of the wreck site. Erika can be contacted at
[email protected] or by phone (416)314-7154.
How do you like them boots Paul?
30 Years Later
THE WRECK OF THE EDMUND FITZGERALD
by Jim Hopkins
November 10th will mark the 30th anniversary of arguably the Great Lakes most
famous shipwreck, the loss of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Over the passing years so
much has been written about the ship, her crew and her loss, it would be difficult
to write anything new here, but I thought none the less, that something shou ld be
written , remembering not only the ship and her crew, but the place they hold in
the annals of Great Lakes history
I was 14 in the fall of 1975, when just after supper I set out for the public library
a couple of blocks away. 30 years later I only remember the cold and blowing
snow that night because of the headlines in the Sudbury Star the next day. They
read that a freighter and 29 men were missing near Sault Ste Marie . As I walked
that evening, little did I know that approximately 150 miles away as the crow
flies, the last Great Lakes disaster and one of it's true mysteries was unfolding.
The Edmund Fitzgerald (US. 277437) was built by the Great Lakes Engineering
Works at River Rouge Michigan. Measuring 729' x 75' x 39' the ship was
launched on June 7,1958. On September 24th of that year her she loaded her
first cargo, taconite pellets bound from Silver Bay Minnesota to Toledo Ohio
under the command of Capt. Bert Lambert.
For her entire career the Fitzgerald was to sail for the Columb ia Transportation
Division of Cleveland based Oglebay Norton. Although considered the flagsh ip
of the Columbia fleet, the Fitzgerald was in fact a "rental" . She was owned by
the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company of Milwaukee and was named
after Mr. Edmund Fitzgerald who was chairman of Northwesterns board of
directors when the Fitzgerald was built.
Although not considered unsinkable in the sense that the Titanic was, it was
believed that technology had moved forward to the point that Great Lakes shipping in 1975 was considered very safe. Of course there were accidents, the loss
ofthe Eastcliffe Hall in 1970 and the Roy A. Jodrey in 1974, but both of these
wrecks followed groundings in the St. Lawrence, they were the result of human
The last two significant storm losses were the Carl D Bradley on November 18,
1958 in Lake Michigan and the Daniel J Morrell on November 26, 1966 in Lake
Huron. Both of these were older boats, the Bradley having been built in 1927
and the Morrell in 1906. The captain of the Bradley was thankful his ship was
making her last trip of the season. Over the course of the shipping season he had
been describing the hull of his ship as "ripe" and she was to undergo a refit as
soon as she laid-up at the end of the trip.
In the case of the Morrell, her steel hull had been constructed of poor quality
steel and it had become brittle, a determination that was made only a couple of
days after her loss. In a twist of fate, the Morrell's sister ship, the Edward Y.
Townsend had been following her up the lake. The Townsend's crew was
surprised when they arrived at the Sault and the Morrell had not yet arrived .
While awaiting news of her missing sister, the Townsend was inspected and it
was discovered that her hull had fractured, she was condemned and was sold for
Safety measures were strengthened over the years following the loss of these
ships one of the most important being that the radio equipment on the bridge
have a back up source of power there, instead of relying on the electrical plant at
the stem . In the case of the Bradley, First Mate Elmer Flemming was issuing the
May-Day call when the ship broke in two severing the power to the bridge and
silencing his efforts. In the case of the Morrell, the power was severed prior to
the crew sending a message.
Ironically, it was radio communication that so enlightened us about the
Fitzgerald story and equally added to the mystery. Throughout the trip down
storm ravaged Superior, Ernest McSorley, captain of the Fitzgerald had been in
regular contact with Bernie Cooper, master of the Arthur M. Anderson that had
been passed by the Fitzgerald and was now following her down the lake.
We know that both of the Fitzgerald's radar sets were down and that she was
relying on the Anderson for help to work her way toward Whitefish Bay. We
know the ship had railing down and had started to take on water, McSorley
radioed he had his pumps running, working ultimately in vain to rid the hull of
water. We also know that McSorley was frustrated by the fact that beacon at
Whitefish Point was not working. Through the intermittent snow squalls the
crew on the bridge of the Fitzgerald were straining their eyes through the pilothouse glass, looking for the landmark that would mean safety for their ship.
There they stood, looking, hoping, surrounded by some of the best technology
available including an alternate power
source for the ships radios, yet when
destiny arrived, the great ship and her
crew passed silently to eternity not
leaving a solid clue as to what happened.
There have been may theories over the
years, the first US Coast Guard inquiry
blamed improperly sealed hatches, others thought she may have ruptured her
hull on shoal near Caribou Island. But a few years ago I read an interesting
article published in Inland Seas, written by a former Fitzgerald crewmember.
With so many pictures used in books and paintings showing a proud staunch
ship, the flagship of the fleet, perhaps more like a yacht than a freighter, the
Inland Seas article changed that for me. The Fitzgerald was described as a
heavily used workhorse, since after all, she was a "rental." The Fitzgerald was
described as often being overloaded, leaving harbour trailing a stream of mud
behind as she dragged her hull out into the lake. In many shipping seasons, she
was more often than not, the first Columbia ship in service and the last into layup. Could this hard work have led to her demise?
30 Years later, we will never know. And what if this disaster had not occurred.
Only five of the Fitzgerald's crew would not be retired. Captain McSorley and
four other would be over 90 years old, eleven would be in their eighties. Perhaps
the Fitzgerald would still be gone, following the path of her sister, the Arthur B.
Homer that was cut up for scrap several years ago.
What we are left with is an enduring story that has left an indelible mark on
Great Lakes history. The vision of captain McSorley, his face near the pilot
house window, his eyes straining to see the Whitefish Point beacon, a signal of
safety for his ship and crew, but unknowingly, sailing into history.
SOMEONE HAS BEEN STRIPPING THE
Letter to Bob Ligthart
In the last week I have personally dove the J.B.King twice and noticed that
the large brass ship's steering wheel and 2 of the 4 brass equipment plaques
(that I have seen in the past) have been removed from the ship. The
wooden wheel on the "life boat" is still there. They were there last year
when I dove the King in late august / early Sept. The removal would have
taken at least 4 to 6 dives to do the work and had to be done at night. I
have talked with a friend of mine who lives out on McDonald point (Dr.
Wyatt) and he told me he remembers seeing and hearing a boat out there
last year mid / late Sept. late at night / early morning (l to 3 am) he gave
me a rough description from what he can remember of the boat.
The really disturbing part is I believe it is a member of our charter boat
association (believing who it is and proving are two different things) , I
have no proof like pictures, boat registration number, etc.
I find this to be extremely disturbing in this day and age that this is being
done to any wreck especially this one where so many folks died .
I have CC the executive of the association (those that I have e-mail address
for) and HOPEFULLY they will take a firm stand and make a loud firm
statement (to all members) regarding this specific example and that and
stripping / moving or damaging any of the wrecks is not acceptable.
I feel that currently my only recourse is to make this as public as possible
in the hope that the individual will stop and ideally be embarrassed into
returning these artifacts back to the wreck site where they belong and not
sell or use them for his personal gain. I also realize that it is probably too
late or just wishful thinking on my part.
Top Ten Largest Wrecks Yet To Be Found
(The Big Ones Still Out There)
by Jim Hopkin s
A while ago while doing some
research I came across an interesting
discussion topic on Brendon Baillodds
Great Lakes Shipwreck Research
Group web-site, what are the 25
largest wreck s not yet discovered? A
list was agreed upon which I believe
is accurate and from that I have put
together this article on the top ten big
ones still out there. A couple of these I
have seen from time to time popping
up as being "found" but to the best of
my knowledge, none of these ships
have been found , yet!
(l) James Carruthers (C131090) 529':
Built in 1913 at Collingwood Ont.
The Carruthers when launched was
the largest ship in the Canadian Great
Lakes Fleet at the time. Despite her
size, the Carruthers career was to be a
short one. 9n November II, 1913, 5
months after completing her maiden
voyage , the James Carruthers was lost
in the Great Storm of 1913 while
down bound on Lake Huron with a
cargo of grain from Fort William Ont.
None of her crew of 25 survived.
_(2) Henry B. Smith (A203143) 525' :
The freighter Henry B. Smith was
launched at Lorain Ohio in 1906.
Seven years later, 1913 had not been
kind to her master Jimmy Owen. The
Smith was well behind in her
expected tonnage delivered and
management was being hard on poor
Jimmy. During the height of the Great
1913 storm, the Henry B. Smith was
tied up safe at the ore chutes in
Marquette Michigan, taking on her
next cargo . People were amazed when
loading had completed, the Smith
backed away from the dock and sailed
out into the fury while her deck crew
was still working to secure the
hatches! Jimmy Owen paid the price
for such foolishness for he, his ship
and crew have yet to be found.
(3) D.M . Clemson (A 157703) 468' :
The steel freighter D.M. Clemson
sank in a Lake Superior blizzard while
carrying a cargo of coal from Lorain
Ohio to Superior Wisconsin on
December I, 1908. The Clemson had
been launched at Superior five years
earlier in 1903. All 24 aboard the
Clemson died in the accident.
(4) Henry Steinbrenner (A96584)
427': The Henry Steinbrenner was
built for the Kinsmen Transit
Company by Jenks Shipbu ilding of
Port Huron Michigan and was
launched in 1901. The Steinbrenner
sank off Isle Royale on May II , 1953
when she lost hatch covers in a storm
and foundered. 17 of the 30 men
aboard the Steinbrenner were lost.
(5) Cyprus (A204527) 420 ' : After
completion at the American
Shipbuilding Company Yards in
Lorain Ohio, the steamer Cyprus sailed
on her Ist voyage on September 21,
1907. Just over two weeks later on
October 9th, the Cyprus sailed from
Superior Wisconsin with a cargo of
iron ore for delivery to Lackawanna,
New York. Two days later after
fighting heavy Lake Superior seas, the
Cyprus capsized and sank leaving only
(6) Hydrus (A200315) 416': The
Hydrus along with her sister ship
Argus were both lost on Lake Huron
during the Great Storm of 1913.
Hydrus was launched at Loraine Ohio
in 1903 and was carrying a cargo of
iron ore when she was lost. All 28
members of the Hydrus's crew
(7) Scotiadoc (C 173186) 416' : The
steamer Scotiadoc was in transit from
Fort William to Midland with a cargo
of wheat when on June 30, 1953 while
sailing in a thick fog near Lake
Superiors Trowbridge Island, she
collided with the steamer Burlington
and sank. The Scotiadoc was built by
the American Shipbuilding Company
and was launched at Cleveland Ohio in
1904. An interesting point pertaining
to the ships name, The Patterson
Steamship Co. always added the suffix
"doc" to the names of their ships
which stands for "Dominion of
(8) Senator (A ll 6725) 410' : The
steamer Senator was launched as a
bulk freighter at Wyandotte Mi. in
1896. In 1929 she took on a new role,
that of automobile carrier following
modifications completed by the Reid
Wrecking Co. On October 31, 1929
the Senator collided with the steamer
Marquette in a heavy Lake Michigan
fog. Shortly after the collision the
Senator settled to the bottom of Lake
Michigan taking with her ten
crewmembers and over 200 brand
new Nash automobiles.
(9) Marquette & Bessemer #2
(A202514) 338' The Bessemer was a
large railcar ferry built in 1905 at
Cleveland by the American
Shipbuilding Co. The Marquette &
Bessemer #2 left Conneaut Ohio on
December 7, 1909 for her regular run
to Port Stanley Ontario carrying 36
coal cars. At the time a gale was
blowing and over the course of the
evening the Bessemer was reportedly
seen or heard several times . However
officially, she has not been seen since.
(10) Clifton (All 6484) 328'
Constructed as a whaleback freighter,
the Clifton was converted into a selfunloader in 1924. Just months after
her conversion, the Clifton disappeared in a Lake Huron storm killing
all 24 aboard .
& TRADEWIND MOORED
by Ian & Barbara Marshall
The NDA with several members of Freeflow & FEURU made a run out to the
Tradewind and Crystal wrecks with Osprey Dive Charters out of Barcelona NY.
As since there were no mooring lines on the wrecks, we decided to install some.
After Jim located the Tradewind, Steve & Jay descended the shot line, located
the windlass and shot a bag to mark its location. The mooring line was then
dropped in the general area and Ian & Barb descended to chain the line to the
windlass. Job completed, the Southwind moored to the new line and the rest of
the divers completed the dive. There is a five gal jug supporting the chain off the
windlass and the surface marker is a white jug, not the
SOS Buoy. The line is weighted at 30' to prevent the excess scope from floating
on the surface.
Although not the ideal system, it's better than dropping anchors, grapples or
concrete blocks, as people have been doing up to now. We also removed over
400' of old mooring lines (a mixture of 3/4, 1/2, 3/8" lines) which were laying all
over the wreck and tied into the railing and anchor. There are still lots of 1/4"
line lying on the wreck. It looks like someone used to dive the wreck by dragging concrete blocks into the side of the wreck and simply cut the line when they
were done. We simply did not have the time or the air to remove more line than
When we moved on to the Crystal wreck, it was easy to find as there was a small
private boat anchored into the wreck. Its single occupant (diver) made sure that
his unattended boat didn't drift off by placing a second grapple securely into the
wreck during his dive. We repeated the same process as on the Tradewind and
the same type of mooring is now installed.
As a side note, it looks like the NY State has finally given permission for
mooring buoys on their side of the lake. The City of Dunkirk has agreed to
sponsor a number of buoys and you should see them on the wrecks in US waters
starting next season. These will be the same buoy as SOS uses but have the
US required white with blue strip markings. They will also be lighted and have
radar reflectors. Jim Herbert will be setting the buoys using 3000# steel blocks
and maintaining them throughout the year.
EMERGES FROM RIVER
By Jim Salter, Associated Press
Bridgeton Mo. - The Montana emerges like a giant skeleton near the banks of
the Missouri River here, a relic from the pre-railroad era when steamboats were a
vital form of transportation. The muddy bottoms of the Missouri and Mississippi
rivers are watery graveyards to hundreds of sunken steamboats including the
Montana, which sank more than 120 years.
The Montana is embedded in mud and normally concealed by the rivers waters .
But rain has been rare in the area this summer and the water level has dipped low
enough to reveal the ships remains. "I was impressed with how much is still
there," said Steve Dasovich, a maritime archaeologist who contracts with the
state to preserve the Montana. "All the spokes of the paddlewheel are still there.
The level of preservation of the wreck is impressive."
By 1860, more than 700 steamboats regularly traveled the Mississippi. The Port
of St. Louis logged more than 22,000 steamboat arrivals between 1845 and 1852,
with the boats lining up for miles along the cities riverfront.
The life expectancy of the boats was not long - about 18 months, Dasovich said.
Downed trees and other river debris, ice fire and explosions tended to do in the
wooden boats. Some believe up to 500 wrecked and abandoned steamboats still
sit at the bottom of the Mississippi between St. Louis and Cairo, Illinois alone.
Greg Hawley, co-owner of the Arabia Steamboat Museum in Kansas City, said
289 documented boats sit at the bottom of the Missouri, but historians believe
the real number is closer to 400.
The Montana was built in 1879, at the end of the steamboat heyday. Dasovich
said the Montana and its sister ships the Dakota and the Wyoming were massive
vessels, "last-ditch efforts to combat the railroad trade. They just could not keep
up." The Montana was among the largest on the Missouri - 280' long, including
its giant paddlewheel. The boats three decks, pilot house and smoke stack made
it stand 50' tall. It turns out it was a little too big.
In June 1884, the Montana tried to pass under a railroad bridge between the
Missouri towns St Charles and Bridgeton, just a few miles from where the river
connects with the Mississippi. The boat struck the bridge and took on water
Long Lost ....continuedfront page 15
before running aground on the St. Louis County side of the river. No one was
hurt but the Montana split in half.
From a distance, the Montana wreckage looks like a tangled muddle of logs and
debris. Closer inspection show rusted steel poking through the rotted wood in
brown water. Wooden spokes from the big paddlewheel are still visible Dasovich believes the bottom half of the wheel itself may still be intact on the
Hawley, whose museum focuses on the Arabia steamboat that sank in 1856 but
includes information about steamboats in general, said the paddlewheelers are an
important part of American history. "There's a great heritage there that is by and
large an untold story," he said. "The great treasures of our nations past are buried
along our river systems." ~
Ship lost in 1885 Discovered
Michigan Group Reports Discovery
Michigan Shipwreck Associates have announced the discovery of the passenger
steamer S.S. Michigan in Lake Michigan this past summer. The group has been
performing side -scanning work off the western shores in the lower section of the
lake for the past several years . The Michigan was found upright in 270' of water
with her cabins collapsed. •
The Michigan (US. 91382) was built in 1881 by the Detroit Dry Dock Co. of
Wyandotte Michigan and measured 203.75 ' x 35 ' x 11.58'.
On February 9, 1885 the Michigan left Grand Haven Mi. to assist the steamer
Oneida that was stranded in ice. Unfortunately for the Michigan and her crew,
she also became trapped in the thick winter ice. The Michigan drifted in the ice
flow until March 19, when ice finally punctured her hull and she sank. At the
time several of her crew were still aboard and they had to walk across the ice
flow to the tug Arctic.
Several technical dives have been made to the site with the vessels identification
being confirmed by an engraved capstan. The group has yet to release the coordinates of the ship pending completion of their survey work.
Source: European Synchotron Radiation Facility
An International team of researchers has analysed the sulphur and iron composition
in the wooden timbers of the Mary Rose, an English warship wrecked in 1545,
which was salvaged two decades ago. The team used Synchrotron X-rays from the
Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory (USA) and the European Synchrotron
Radiation Facility (France) in order to determine the chemical state of the surprisingly large quantities of sulphur and iron found in the ship. These new results
provide insight to the state of this historic vessel and should aid preservation efforts.
The Mary Rose served as English King Henry VIII's principal warship for 35 years
until she went down outside of Portsmouth in 1545. In 1982 the hull was recovered
from the sea and is currently undergoing a conservation process. Magnus Sanstrom
and his colleagues showed recently that the accumulation of sulphur within shipwrecks preserved in seawater is common by studying the Swedish warship Vasa,
which remained on the seabed for 333 years .
Their research concluded that sulphur in contact with oxygen could pose conservation problems. Over time, sulphur can convert to sulphuric acid, which slowly
degrades the wood until hull stability is lost.
The Mary Rose was examined to determine the potential threat and it was found that
about 2 tons of sulphur in different compounds is rather uniformly distributed within
the 280-ton hull. By studying thin wood slices perpendicularly cut, they found high
concentrations of organo-sulphur compound which may have helped preserve the
ship while it was submerged in the seawater. This helped to understand how accessible and reactive the different sulphur compounds found are to acid-producing
At the Mary Rose Trust they are already investigating new treatments to prevent acid
formation . For slowing down the organo-sulphur oxidation reaction and prevent new
acid formation, wood samples from the Mary Rose are being treated with antioxidants in combination with low and high grade polyethylene glycol (PEG) Another
approach to slow down acid formation in PEG treated conserved archaeological
wood is to maintain it in a stable climate . It is hoped that keeping a constant low
humidity of 59-55% without variation of temperature will stop changes in sulphur
To maintain a stable microclimate within the wood structure a surface coating offers
a possible solution although the effectiveness of this approach has yet to be tested.
"This ongoing research is considered to be an important step forward in devising
improvements to the current Mary Rose hull treatment programme", according to
Mark Jones, curator of the Mary Rose.
RESOLUTION NOT LOST AT SEA,
AS MOST HISTORIANS THOUGHT
by Randy Boswell
OTTAWA - HMS Resolution, one of
the greatest ships in maritime history
and the vessel sailed by James Cook
on his epic 1778 voyage of discovery
to Canada's west coast, was long
thought to have been lost at sea in the
decades following the legendary
captain's death .
But now, thanks to a series of archival
finds by scholars in the U.S., Australia
and France, a new account of the ship's
fate is emerging. It involves a strange
case of mistaken identity and a
remarkable coincidence by which
Cook's other famous command, the
Endeavour , was apparently sunk just a
stone's throw from the Resolution's
own final resting place in the harbour
at Newport, Rhode Island.
What it all means is that artifacts from
both of the ships that Cook sailed on
his historic expeditions could soon be
identified and displayed in museums
around the world . And historians in
Canada will have to rewrite the life
story of the Resolution, which finally
determined the Pacific bounds of the
country nearly three centuries after its
Atlantic shore had first been traced for
Britain by John Cabot's Matthew.
history's explorers. He served as navigator with the British arm~da tha~ seized
Louisbourg and Quebec CIty dunng the
fall of New France. He later charted the
coastline of Newfoundland.
His first major voyage of exploration
aboard the Endeavour from 1768-71
revolutionized Europe's understanding
of the South Pacific and led to Britain's
claim on Australia. His second and third
voyages, carried out on the Resolution
from 1772-75 and 1776-79, put New
Zealand, Hawaii and the northwest coast
of North America on the world map.
Cook's arrival at Vancouver Island , on
March 30, 1778, was the first European
landing on the western shore of the
future Canada. It was a moment that
eventually made possible a country
stretching from sea to sea and initiated
an era of prosperous trade with the
native inhabitants ofNootka Sound .
"We were followed, by many of the
canoe s, to our anchoring-place; and a
group, consi sting of about ten or a
dozen of them, continued alongside the
Resolution the greatest part of the
night," noted an official account of
Cook's voyage drawn from his journal.
"For people on the West Coast , it's a
little bit like the Mayflower," says Guy
Mathias, curator of the Vancouver
Maritime Museum. "The arrival of the
Resolution is a story that figures
prominently in any history of first
"Hence we flattered ourselves, that we
were so comfortably situated, as to be
able to get all our wants supplied, and
forget the delays and hardships we had
experienced, in almost a constant
succes sion of adverse winds and
tempe stuous weather, ever since our
arrival upon this coast."
Cook, who cut his teeth as a naval
officer in Canada, is a giant among
Both of Cook's ships were known to
have been renamed and put to other
uses after he was killed in a 1779 clash
with Hawaiian natives. The Resolution
was generally thought to have been lost
to the French before disappeari ng from
the historic record. Knowledge of the
Endeavour's post-Cook travels was
similarly sketchy, but most scholars
accepted the view that the ship ended
up in Newport, where it was believed to
have sprung leaks and been abandoned
at a wharf in the 1790s.
Not quite, according to the latest
research. The new findings about
Captain Cook's ships have been
revealed as part of a naval heritage
project headed by Rhode Island marine
archeologist Kathy Abbass, who has
been combing the bottom of Newport
harbour in search of historic wrecks
from the city's heyday as a major port
in the 18th century.
Abbass's research at the naval archives
in London has confirmed the
Endeavour did end up in Newport, but
that it was not left as a rotting wreck on
the shore. She found documents
showing that after Cook returned the
ship to England in 1771, it was
renamed Lord Sandwich and deployed
as a troop transport in Britain's unsuc cessful struggle to retain control of its
American colonies .
Abbass also learned the Lord Sandwich
had been scuttled at Newport in 1778
along with several other old ships,
sunk intentionally by British forces
during the American War of
Independence to block enemy vessels
from entering the harbour.
Over the past three summers, Abbass
has led dive teams hunting for signs of
the Endeavour among the scuttled
ships, gradually narrowing her search.
"I do know that the chain of evidence
is incontrovertible that the Endeavour
became the Lord Sandwich and was
sunk in Newport Harbour," Abbass told
CanWest News Service .
"What happened to her after that is the
question . And can we find her , and if
we do find her, can we prove it , are
the bigger questions ."
Meanwhile, Australian researchers
Mike Connell and Des Liddy had come
up with a convincing theory about the
other ship, the one abandoned at the
Newport wharf. Using naval registry
documents in Britain and other records
found by French maritime historian
Thierry du Pasquier, Connell and Liddy
retraced the story of that vessel and
determined that it was not the
Endeavour, as traditionally believed,
but the ship Cook sailed to Canada .
"After evaluating all of the evidence ,"
Connell and Liddy wrote in an
Australian history journal, "it can now
be concluded with certainty that the
vessel wrecked in Newport, Rhode
Island is James Cook's sloop
Resolution and not Endeavour."
Their path of discovery also led to
archives in Britain, where they found
that the Resolution had sailed to the
East Indies in 1781 and was captured
by a French warship. From du
Pasquier, Connell and Liddy learned
that the war prize returned to France,
became known as the Marie Antoinette
and was sold to a whaling company. In
1789, on the cusp the French
Revolution, the ship was prudently
renamed La Liberte.
The next key piece of evidence about
the fate of the former Resolut ion was
found in the 1792 journal of John
Barrow, a prominent 18th-century
figure in the British navy who also
wrote one of the earliest biographies of
On a trip that took him to the Cape
Verde Islands off the west coast of
Africa, Barrow observed a small fleet
of French whaling ships as they arrived
at the same port.
"One of them was the old Resolution of
Captain Cooke, now transformed to a
smuggling whaler under the French
name of La Liberte," Barrow had
"And what was still worse, bearing the
French republican flag. I am not ashamed to confess that my feelings were
considerably hurt in witnessing this
degradation of an object so intimately
connected with that great man ."
In 1793, La Liberte ended up in
Newport and drew attention among the
locals as one of Cook's old ships, gradually becoming known as the former
Endeavour. After the disabled vessel
was abandoned at the wharf, city residents began taking pieces of wood as
A storm that blew through in 1815
swept away much of the ship, appar ently leaving behind only the remains
"Somehow, that history got confused,"
says Abbass. "It was not a fraud. It
could have been an honest mistake, it's
identified as Capt. Cook's vessel and
they think it's the Endeavour, not the
Souvenirs stripped from the rotting hulk
of the former Resolution have become
museum pieces around the world, all
identified as relics from the Endeavour.
Abbass says she's even seen slivers of
wood in framed testimonials certifying
their authenticity as Endeavour artifacts.
One box fashioned from the ship's
timbers is held by the Newport
Historical Society; another was given to
the novelist James Fenimore Cooper for
having set one of his stories in Rhode
The ship's stem post is exhibited at a
museum in Sydney, Australia. When
astronaut Andy Thomas became
Australia's first man in space in 1996,
he celebrated his trip aboard the space
shuttle Endeavour by taking a fragment
of the post with him, believing it was a
link to Cook's ship of the same name.
Objects accurately labeled as Resolution
relics are understandably rare. The State
Library of New South Wales in
Australia has one remarkable artifact,
though, a miniature coffin carved from
the ship's oak timbers by Cook's
crewmen after their captain was killed
in Hawaii. A lock of his hair was placed
inside the tiny casket and the curious
item was given to his widow.
Abbass, now focused on finding traces
of the real Endeavour, doubts there's
much left of the Resolution.
"She's probably under landfill," she
But at a spot along the Newport shore,
apparently near the site of a modem
condominium that looks out over the
storied harbour, the last remnants of the
Resolution may still rest in the Rhode
Island sand. .~
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View ['Dm the Bridge - Jim Hopkfns
SOS Hamilton - Walthe, Inc
30 Ye"", L"te, - Jim HOPkins
Someone Has Been Stripping The
J.B.King - Tom Scott
Top ten l"'gest wrecks..... - Jim Hopkins
Crystal & Tradewind MOored
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Long Lost S'eamhoat. .. - Jim Sal'e,
Shfp Lost in 1885 Discove'ed
heselYing a 460 ye.,. old w'eck
HMS Resolntion - Randy Boswell