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"Does anyone know where the love of God goes
When the waves turn the minutes to hours"

Gordon Lightfoot
Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

One of the most interesting aspects of Georgian Bay is its' shipwrecks. Many moving stories exist and the history goes back to the 19th century merchants sailing ships and continues right up to this day. Many lives have been lost in the Bay as ships went down in gale force winds. Big ships, steamers, tugs, leisure yachts, small boats ... no one is immune to Georgian Bay's temptation of crystal clear water, rugged islands, hidden shoals and quick temper. Shipwrecks are especially of interest to recreational divers and yachtsmen who can't resist the curiosity factor of where, why, and how ships of all sizes met their demise. It is part of the folklore of the area and an eerie spectacle for those above and below the water to gaze upon the history frozen in time in the cold water of Georgian Bay.

Georgian Bay, due to its geography and navigational challenges, has more than its fair share of wrecks ... especially where Lake Huron meets Georgian Bay at Bruce Peninsula in the Tobermory area. The beauty of the area is in direct contrast to the perils that await unsuspecting mariners or those captains that drop their guard if only for a moment.

Shipwrecks are also a major tourist attraction for Georgian Bay and Tobermory is known as the "shipwreck capital of Canada". The cold fresh water is an excellent preservative of the ships and the backdrop of the very rock formations that sunk them makes for a surreal experience. There are few places in the world where one could experience so many well preserved shipwrecks with such water clarity in such a small geographic footprint. The Fathom Five National National Marine Park at Tobermory alone boasts 22 shipwrecks inside its boundaries. Because Tobermory has two extremely well sheltered harbours (Big Tub & Little Tub) and because it is at that meeting point of Georgian Bay & Lake Huron, it's easy to see why so many ended up sunk there. They almost all shared something in common - desperation, autumn gales, huge waves and a need to make safe harbour at a risk of the many shoals and the two dozen islands that guard the area. Those less skilled or down on their luck lost the gamble in the quest to reach the holy grail of safe harbour in a wicked storm that tested them to the limits in gale force winds and blinding November snowstorms.

In some cases ships live out their last days in bone yards where they are simply moored in backwaters until they sink. Parry Sound is a good example of a backwater bone yard. There are also countless boats that were towed out of harbour and burnt as a method of disposal. Once they burned to the waterline they are sunk by the choppy waves. There are also still many undiscovered shipwrecks on Georgian Bay waiting for these final moments of glory.

The following is a representative table in order by the ships lost date. It is important to remember that hundreds of smaller leisure yachts have wrecked on Georgian Bay and remain undocumented or unaccounted for. There are also many yachts and ships that get overwhelmed in deeper water and they go down in areas of the bay that are too deep to dive. Over time they get forgotten but they sit at extreme depths, preserved for eternity.

YouTube Shipwreck Videos

Marquette Shipwreck Video
Niagara 2 Shipwreck Video
Mapledawn Shipwreck Video
Philo Scoville Shipwreck Video
Arabia Shipwreck Video
Forest City Shipwreck Video
The Tugs Shipwrecks Video

Ship NameShip TypeYearDate
Midland CityPaddlewheel/Motor1921May 1955152Intentionally SunkPassengersNoPart of Wye Marina breakwall
WawinetPrivate Yacht1904Sept. 194287Sank - captain errorPrivate PassengerYesOff Beausoleil Point
25 drowned
Indian Belle3 Mast Sail--130Sank-YesRan aground
Fraces Bank
LuckportSteamer1880Dec. 1934126FirePassengers/CargoYesVisible from surface
RelieverSteam/Propeller Tug1888Nov. 1906216FireLumber/LogsYesMan drowned exploring the wreck in 1921
MapledawnSteel Freighter1890Nov. 1924350Storm / GaleGrainYesRan aground Christan Island
NancySail1789Aug. 181480WarBritish Ary SupplyNoWar of 1812 ship
H BishopSchooner18461852122Storm / Ran AgroundGrainNoAt mouth of Nottawasaga river
Prestons StoreGasoline Launch1932Aug. 193456FireSupplierYesAt Minnelogashene Island
WalesTug18641895110AbandonedLumberYesAbandoned Longguisson Point
ChippewaTug1874190694 TonsAbandonedLumberYesSunk Masquash River
OntarioWooden Barge18671907105AbandonedLumberYesAbandoned Masquash River
WJ MartinWooden Steamer1905Nov. 190575BurnedLumberYesLost after only 2 months service
EmmaWooden Steamer1894July 191289FirePassengerYesNear Sister Rock Beacon Parry Sound area
Ella RosePaddlewheel Steamer June 191299FirePassengerYesBurned at wharf in Parry Sound
George H. JonesSteam Propeller Tug1910Oct. 191765Fire YesNear Parry Sound
NorthwindSteamer1889July 1926300Ran aground in fog YesParry Sound harbour
OphirSteam Propeller Tug1902May 1919 Fire YesParry Sound harbour
Atlantic (formerly Manitoulin)Steamer1880Nov. 1903147GaleLumber / Hay / Coal OilYesAtlantic was rebuilt from Manitoulin
Jane McLeodSchooner1868Nov. 1890123Ran AgroundHay / OatsYesMcLeod Island
DolphinSteam Tug1900 49 LumberYesSnug Harbour
Midland CityTug1896192362Ran Aground YesNear Green Island
SeattleSteamer Nov. 1903160Gale / Engine FailureLumberYesGreen Island
AsiaSteamer1873Sept. 1882136Hurricane / Possibly ran agroundPassenger / Freight?120 passengers died - only 2 survivours - never been found
MetamoraTug1864July 1907115FireFreightYesShawanaga Inlet - was a gun boat in 1870's
Northern BelleSteamer1876Nov. 1898129FirePassenger / FreightYesBying Inlet
IndiaWooden Propeller Steam Ship1899Sept. 1929216FirePulpwoodYesNear Killarney
HibouSteamer1907Nov. 1936122Took on water / Cargo shiftedHay / Flour Raised & rebuilt 1942 - many died in sinking
Jane MillerSteamer1878Nov. 188178Snow StormPassenger / Freight 28 lost - wreck never found
City of Chatham / ZealandSteam Propeller1872 136Intentionally SunkPassenger / WheatYesNear Wiarton
W.E. GladstoneTug1882Nov. 190872Intentionally SunkFreightYesNear Lions Head
GargantuaSteam Tug1919Nov. 1952130Took on water / Towed to basinFreightYesWingfield Basin
Lady DufferinSchooner1872Oct. 1886135Gale / Ran AgroundLumberYesNear Tobermory
GriffonGalleon1679167970 Furs Never confirmed as found
Charles P. MinchSchooner1867Oct. 1898155Dragged Anchor / Ran AgroundLumberYesCove Island
VitaPrivate Yacht 191086Ran AgroundPassenger YachtYesYeo Island
Lottie WolfSchooner1866Oct. 1891126Gale/shoalCornYesNear
Hope Island
MichiganFerry/Barge1890Nov. 1943297Gale / shoalGrainYesShallow water - lots to view
Thomas CranageSteamer1893Sept. 1911305Run AgroundGrainYesLots of machinery visible
MarquetteSchooner1856Nov. 1867139StormIron OreYesOriginally called
Hope Island
Mystery Wreck
City of
Steamer1882Sept. 1901255GaleIron OreYesHull fully intact
San JacintoSchooner1856June 1881130Fog / ShoalCornYesLargely complete
recently discovered
Caroline RoseSchooner1940August 1990
Intentionally Sunk
132Sunk as
dive site
EmptyYesShown on back
of old $100 bill
Sunk as dive site
Avalon VoyagerWood passenger1947Oct. 1980135Mechanical failure
Ran aground
YesUsed to be restaurant in
Kincardine - 1979
Forest CitySteamer18901904216Fog / ran agroundgeneral
YesName of ship
visible on transom
Marion L BreckSchooner18631900127Run agroundBrickYesScattered wreckage
ArabiaBarque18531884131Ran agroundGrainYesHull mostly
Charles P.
Schooner1867Oct. 1898155Gale at anchorNoneYesAnchor on display
at Tobermory
Philo ScovilleSchooner1863Oct. 1889139Gale at anchorNo cargoYesCaptain drowned with boat
New YagoSteamer1890Nov. 1903196Blizzard /
Ran aground
- YesSunk towing barge in
James C KingSchooner / Barge1887Nov. 1901175Gale under towConverted to bargeYesWent down while under tow
W. L. WetmoreSteamer18711901214GaleLumberYesVisible anchor
& chain
John WaltersSchooner18521883108StormUnknownYesVery shallow
(10ft. water)
ChinaSchooner1863Nov. 1883137Blizzard
Ran aground
LumberYesReef she ran into
now called
China Reef
CascadenSchooner1866Nov. 1883138 (tons)Gale / ran agroundSuppliesYesWent down carrying
supplies to Cove
Island lighthouse
Alice GTug1902Nov. 192760GaleNoneYesBlown ashore
by gale
Robert K.Tug1917June 193569FireNoneYesFire at dock
in Tobermory
Bob FooteTug1888190568FireFishYesFishing Tug
John & AlexTug1924Dec. 194759FireNoneYesFire at dock
City of Grand RapidsSteamer18791907122BurnedPassengerYesTowed from harbour on fire but drifted back to Big Tub Harbour
SweepstakesSchooner18671885119Sunk at salvageEmptyYesLocated in Tobermory
Big Tub Harbour
1865Nov. 1879135GalePassenger /
Yes23 passengers lost with ship near Parry Sound
ManasooSteamer1888Sept. 1928178GaleCattle /
- Built in Scotland
16 of 21 died in wreck
HibouSteamer1907Nov. 1936122GaleFlour - 7 of 17 died near Owen Sound
Mary WardSteamer1864Nov. 1872139Ran aground
mistook lighthouse
Salt, coal oil, & acid
& passengers
- 8 died near
ManitoulinSteamer1880May 1882152Caught firePassengers - 11 of 25 died near Manitowaning
J.H. JonesSteamer1888Nov. 1906107GaleBricks /
- 26 of 26 died off Cape Croker
City of Owen Sound /
Steamer1875Oct. 1887172Gale / ran aground - - Crew survived
Claperton Island
North Channel

"The wind in the wires made a tattletale sound
And a wave broke over the railing
And every man knew, as the Captain did, too
Twas the witch of November come stealing"

Gordon Lightfoot
Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

Steamer ASIA Disaster - September 1882


Collingwood, Ontario, Sept. 17. -- The following report, sent from Parry Sound by Mr. J. C. Miller, has just reached here by the hand of Capt. John Daney, of the tug Minnehaha, giving the details of the loss of the steamer Asia, of the Great Northern Transit Company's Line, which left here on Wednesday evening last for French River and Sault Ste. Marie.

Capt. H. M. McGREGOR reached here yesterday by tug from Owen Sound, and reported passing the wreckage of a steamer off the Limestone Island. He picked up and brought with him a trunk, door, and pillow slip marked "steamer Asia." About 10 o'clock this morning an Indian boat reached here from Point du Barry, about 35 miles distant, bringing MR. D. A. TINKIS, of Manitoaning, and MISS CHRISTIANA MORRISON, from near Owen Sound supposed to be the only two survivors of the ill fated steamer. MR. TINKIS makes the following statement:

"I went aboard the Asia at Owen Sound about midnight Wednesday in company with J. H. TINKIS and H. B. GALLAGHER, both of Manitowaning. The steamer was crowded, all the state rooms being full, and many of the passengers lying on sofas and on the cabin floor. All went well until about 11 o'clock on Thursday morning, when a storm struck us. I was in my berth at the time. My uncle J. H. TINKIS, jumped up and said the boat was doomed. Dishes and chairs were flying in every direction. We left the cabin and found difficulty in getting on deck, the boat was folling so heavily. I got a life preserver and put it on. The boat went into the trough of the sea and would not obey her helm . She rolled heavily for about 90 minutes, when she was struck by a heavy sea and foundered, going down, with engines working about 11:30 o'clock. The Asia was making for French River, and had on board men, horses, and lumbermen's supplies for shanties there. I saw three boats loaded. I was in the first. About eight were with me. At first more got in until the boat was overloaded and turned over twice. Parties were hanging on to my life preserver, which got displaced, and I threw it off. I then left the boat and swam to the Captain's boat, which was near by, and asked JOHN McDOUGALL, the purser to help me in. He said it was but little use, but gave me his hand. When I got in there were 18 in the boat and by that time there was a large number in and clinging to the boat I had left. I know nothing of the third boat. our boat rolled over and I remember missing McDOUGALL a few minutes afterward. People were hanging to spars and other parts of the wreck. Our boat was full of water and the sea was constantly breaking over us. One of the first to die on board was a cabin boy. He was dying and being supported by one of the men when a wave washed him overboard. The next to go was a boathand, who jumped out. I could see him paddling around in the water for mearly 100 yards. Our number was now reduced to seven persons five of whom died before reaching the beach. CAPT. SAVAGE, who was the last to die, expiring in my arms about midnight on Thursday. MR. JOHN LITTLE, of Sault Ste. Marie; Mate McDONALD, and two others, whose names are unknown. The boat finally stranded near Point au Baril at daylight, Friday, with MISS MORRISON and myself the only survivors. I put the bodies of the dead out on the beach, and pried the boat off with an oar, but did not bale it out. MISS MORRISON and I went down the beach in the boat to a derrick about two miles distant, and remained on the beach all night. At about 8 o'clock Saturday morning an Indian came along and I engaged him to bring us to Parry Sound. He would not bring the bodies."

The steamer Northern Belle, of the same line which reached here this morning, has been furnished with ice & coffins, and has left to bring the bodies. MISS MORRISON and MR TINKIS are being well cared for here, and the Doctor thinks that neither will suffer materially from the long exposure. There were probably about 100 persons on board the Asia.

New York Times New York 1882-09-18
Researched and Transcribed by Stu Beitler.

Most of the scuba diving charters are focused around the Tobermory area. Here is a list of companies that provide scuba diving excursions:

South of the Surface  Owen Sound(519) 372 9346
Georgian Bay Divers  Tiny(647) 328 9941
Tobermory Aquasports  Tobermory(519) 596-8474
Divers Den  Tobermory(519) 596-2363
G & S Wakesports  Tobermory(519) 596-2200
TechBay Marina  Tobermory(519) 270-0612
Georgian Adventure Dive Club  Balm Beach(519) 361-3751
Divers Nook  Parry Sound(705) 746-9757
Neptunes Locker  Penetanguishene(705) 549-6444

For recreational gunk holers, next time you are at anchor in a quiet anchorage, put your fins and snorkel on and check out the history below. Many isolated anchorages were refuge to yachts seeking shelter in storms only to be caught off guard by gale force wind shifts that took them onto the rocks or shoals. A word to the wise - many anchorages in moderate winds will hold an anchor fast but in gale force winds the smooth rock bottom covered by several feet of mud and debris will not hold an anchor fast and dragging becomes the problem. When in doubt, two anchors Bahama style is usually the best option to make sure you get a good nights sleep.

Last but not least, in our modern age, technology has assisted greatly in navigation ability and thankfully chances at wrecking are diminished but every sailor or yachtsman should learn to dead reckon and not depend totally on their GPS or chart plotters.

Want To Know Where The Oldest Shipwreck In The Western Hemisphere Lies?  Display Here's a clue it's not Georgian Bay. It's in the Turks & Caicos just off of the Caicos Bank near French Cay. For 450 years the ship lied wrecked and undiscovered. In 1976 unlicensed treasure hunters discovered a wreck on Molasses Reef from an era about 1513 on a reef located on the southern fringe of the Caicos Bank.This ship is now known only as the Molasses Reef Wreck and  is the oldest European shipwreck excavated in the Western Hemisphere.

Many ancient ships are known to have been lost in the Americas by 1520 but none of them can be matched to the Molasses Reef Wreck. The lack of personal possessions in the wreck indicates that the crew was able to abandon ship. Four sets of bilboes were found at the wreck site. The bilboes were often used to restrain slaves aboard ships. The ship may have been hunting for Lucayans slaves in the Bahama Islands that now includes the separate Turks and Caicos Islands. By 1513 almost all of the Lucayans had been removed from the southern Bahama Islands. This along with other evidence would support with a wreck date no later than 1513. 

Lighthouse In 1980, a salvage company organized by those treasure hunters applied for a license from the government of the Turks and Caicos Islands to explore and salvage shipwrecks. After receiving the license the company leaped to the conclusion they had discovered the wreck of the Columbus ship NINA ... a wreck that would be worth more than any cargo. Concerned about the salvage company the Turks and Caicos Islands government invited the Institute of Nautical Archaeology at Texas A&M University to do an archaeology survey of the wreck site. Later a new group arrived in the Turks and Caicos Islands claiming to have inherited the rights of the earlier salvage company. After getting government permission to explore wrecks other than the Molasses Reef wreck (but not to remove any artefacts) the salvage company proceeded to steal artefacts from numerous sites including Molasses Reef. The government then revoked the company's salvage license. The Turks & Caicos National Government recognized that the wreck was one of the oldest wrecks ever found in the Western Hemisphere and took over management of the site on the basis of legislation passed in 1974.

The Government contracted with underwater archaeologists from Texas A&M University to excavate the wreck in 1980. The team, led by Dr. Donald H. Keith, began work in 1981, but not before a team of illegal treasure seekers pipe bombed the wreck looking for treasure. In addition to damaging the site the looters stole artefacts. Recently a wrought-iron ordnance surfaced in Harrisburg Pennsylvania that had been stolen from the wreck site at the time of the illegal bombing. Dr. Keith's team excavated the Molasses Reef Wreck between 1981 and 1986. Most of what was salvaged was preserved under the ballast stones of the ship. The Molasses Reef Wreck is still a mystery. The Spanish were good record keepers but much of the documentation from this period no longer exists. While archaeology has provided many clues about the ship's general identity, no clue to the ship's individual identity has ever been found. There was no proof it was one of the Columbus ships ... but it still was a very old wreck as dated by pre cast iron cannons made of wrought iron. At the time the Molasses Reef wreck occurred, Spain was beginning its domination of the New World that lasted 350 years. This domination was a result of Columbus discoveries.

Light The Museum in Grand Turk island houses the complete assembly of conserved artefacts from this famous wreck including cannons, cannon balls, hull pieces, surgical instruments, jars, tools and rigging and is well worth visiting for the small $5 fee. The Turks & Caicos is one of the best dive sites in the world due to extensive reefs and very deep canyons that drop off outside the reefs. Sailors were often fooled by the abruptness of going from un-measureable depths to reefs in just a few feet. One other famous ship the US Navy schooner Onkahye built in 1839 sunk in 1848. This boat was a fast dispatch ship used to track down pirates, seek out slave ships and move secret documents quickly. This ship would later become the model for the first Americas Cup racing boats. The shipwreck is well documented by the crew ... but the actual wreck has never been found. It may have slipped from reef into the abyss after it tried to navigate the Caicos Passage as night fell. The US navy brig Chippewa sunk in the same place 32 years later. Many ships faltered when observing "false" reefs only to find themselves trapped between two parallel reefs with strong currents, rather than out in the deep channel where they thought they were.

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