The Brig Glide
Whenever a wreck went unidentified people's natural instincts were to choose the most interesting explanation. In September 1855, a fully rigged brig was discovered sunk on the breaker to the southwest of Yellow Murr Ledge, Grand Manan. There was no crew.
The vessel went unidentified for quite some time. The vessel was painted black and rumoured to be the pirate ship Gloria, known for her odd color. However, in the 1960s an underwater archaeologist positively identified the brig as the Glide.
On her way up the Bay of Fundy, on Sept. 1, 1885, the Glide hit bad weather and during the early afternoon southwest winds strengthened to a gale. Fog shut in. The Glide was completely dependent on the dead reckoning of her captain. Captain Ellis never supposed his ship had strayed so far off the course enroute from Halifax to Windsor. He never made sufficient allowance for the extent the strong winds had blown his vessel to the north. A fatal error in reckoning.
In the thick fog, the captain assumed he had struck a ledge off Nova Scotia. He ordered all hands into the lifeboat, gathered up the ship's papers, then left the wreck thinking they would soon make the Nova Scotia shore. As they pulled in their oars past the light at Gannet Rock, they could have no idea they were rowing straight to their deaths. Once out in the open Bay, their small boat would be swamped and all hands lost. Like so many who had ended their lives in these waters, they remain nameless and unknown.
The wreck of the Steam Ship Hestia
Through the wind and rain of an autumn storm the Hestia surged on. The mournful cries of the steam whistle cut the darkness. An hour into William McCandless' watch, the seaman saw something in the pitch darkness. He took to be the form of an unlighted schooner. He was wrong. At 1:10 am, Monday, Oct. 25, 1909, the Hestia crashed on the dreaded Old Proprietor ledge, southeast of Grand Manan.
After four hours aboard the wreck the captain dared not keep the men aboard longer. He ordered everyone to tak-to-the-boats. Eleven got into the smaller of the two and started lowering the lifeboat into the heavy seas. While still hanging from the tackle, a great sea came along and momentarily picked up the lifeboat. In that instant the forward tackle unhooked. As the wave swept by, the bow dropped away, spilling its occupants into the sea.
Awful minutes of unspeakable horror followed for those listening helplessly on deck. The lifeboat timbers pounded and cracked as they crashed against the steel hull. One-by-one the cries and screams of their companions, hauntingly audible over the roar of the storm... faded. Two men managed to crawl to safety. Nine of the 11 who boarded the first lifeboat drowned beside the ship.
The captain ordered all hands to the larger lifeboat. Six of his crew, including the two who had just survived the loss of the first boat, could not be persuaded to leave. They were the lucky ones. They stood by to assist as the lifeboat with 25 men aboard pulled away into the merciless seas. Within the next few days, after the six aboard the Hestia had been rescued, the fate of the life boat was discovered on a Nova Scotia shore.
A boat marked Hestia lay overturned by the crashing surf on the shores south of Yarmouth. It was quickly righted and a grisly discovery made. Entangle in the thwarts were three bodies, ...more continued to wash ashore during the following days. In all, 30 men and four boys lost their lives. Bells of the Yarmouth churches tolled as a solemn procession made its way to the local cemetery.
The Hestia had been carrying one of the most valuable cargoes headed for Saint ohn that year. Carpet, fabric, rope and ironically, a number of tombstones lie scattered around Old Proprietor Ledge. In the 1970s, historians were treated to a once in a lifetime taste of vintage Scotch. Three cases had lain unbroken and unspoiled on the ocean floor for over 60 years.
The Barque Mavourneen
As shipwrecks go, the wreck of the Mavourneen was nothing out of the ordinary. In 1866, the barque went ashore at Bradford's Cove at the southern end of Grand Manan, New Brunswick during a dense fog. The crew was rescued and the barque came off at high water the following day and sank immediately.
What makes this wreck unique is that the vessel was built with iron knees. Consequently the ship has retained her shape far better than others from that period. She lies 27 metres (90 ft) below the surface. Since the late 1960s her hull has been good proving ground for underwater archaeological surveyors.
Many artifacts have been brought up from the wreckage. They are now displayed in the Grand Manan Museum. In 1984, with special funding from the New Brunswick Bicentennial Commission, five divers initiated an exploraion of the wreck. The project yielded a 270 kilogram (600 lb) capstan, used to raise and lower the sails. It was later donated to the New Brunswick Museum in Saint John.
The Wreck of the Steam Ship Warwick
The entire of crew of the Warwick was saved and most of her cargo salvaged shortly after the wreck in 1896, leaving limited remains of interest to divers. So what was special about the wreck to prompt worldwide coverage?.
On December 30, the weather was fine, with a little haze on the horizon, allowing those on the bridge of the Warwick to see nine or 10 miles around them. About 9:30p.m., a bright light was sighted about two points on the starboard bow. The captain decided it was Brier Island light, a fixed light off the Nova Scotia coast.
He had only made the decision, when he noticed water breaking dead ahead. He ordered the engines reversed, ...it was of no use. Within minutes the Warwick crashed on the rocks, shaking her from stem-to-stern. She slid up the massive ledge, then ground to a halt.
The fixed light was still visible, but it was now over the port bow, and appeared to be about five miles off. The mate and captain discussed this, still convinced the light was fixed and it must be Brier Island. This left them perplexed. They could not imagine what they had struck, and furthermore, felt they should have been able to see Cape St. Mary light from their position.
Between three and four in the morning, the fixed light was now seen to be flashing. Consulting the chart, they now came to the correct conclusion. The light they had seen was Gannet Rock, and that meant they had gone ashore on the Yellow Murr Ledge.
The captain eventually ordered all hands into the life boats and headed for the light. The journey was next to impossible and they were greatly relieved when the crew of the schooner George S. Boutwell hauled them out of their lifeboats and took them to the shelter of Seal Cove harbour.
In the days following the wreck the question on everyone's mind pertained to the light at Gannet Rock: was it fixed or was it revolving? John Kelly, Inspector of Lights, visited Walter B. McLaughlin at the Southwest Light Station, to confirm he would testify the light was indeed revolving. McLaughlin was a highly respected veteran of the lighthouse service, plus he was articulate and well-known for his integrity. The Lighthouse Service desperately needed a witness of this stature, but what they had failed to consider was McLaughlin's flair for the dramatic.
On the stand McLaughlin dropped a bombshell that completely reversed the direction of the enquiry. Although he was satisfied the revolving mechanism of the light was working, it would appear to be fixed to Captain Kemp and his crew. He explained when frost formed on the windows of the lighthouse, it reflected the light beam when the signal was supposed to be in eclipse. Then to exonerate Captain Kemp with even more finality, McLaughlin noted that six vessels had been lost in that spot during the past 40 years, and all had been looking for Brier Island Light!
Embarrassed by the findings, Kelly and the Saint John Board of Trade went to the Minister of Marine in Ottawa to have the exoneration of the captain overturned. This was an unprecedented move and cries of protest rose up from rival ports throughout the shipping world. The issue was eventually dropped, but not before scathing criticism popped up in newspaper editorials world wide.
The barque Lord Ashburton
In a hill-top cemetery, over-looking the fishing community of North Head stands a monument to 21 strangers. Though the crew was never known by the islanders the story of their tragedy is permanently etched in the island's heritage. One of the most devastating marine tragedies of the area, the wreck of the Lord Ashburton has been immortalized in paintings and writing. The stone is testament to the oft unforgiving nature of the sea.
The barque had an uneventful voyage during the winter of 1857, as she crossed the Atlantic from Toulouse, France to Saint John. Less than 60 miles from its destination, driven by hurricane winds, the barque rushed towards the "frowning cliffs" of Grand Manan. The crew could do little. They waited in horror for the inevitable.
In the mayhem that followed the crew of 28, along with the captain and three mates, were swept overboard. A few men clung desperately to pieces of shattered hull and struggled to shore. One lucky soul, it was rumoured, sailed ashore on a hatch-cover... left untouched by the sea.
News travels quickly on an island. Villagers provided what comfort they could to the eight survivors. The following morning men arrived from afar to offer whatever help necessary. What awaited them was a ghastly scene.
There could be no mystery about what had taken place that night. Here lay the partially submerged ship with gaping hole and tattered sails. Clothing hung of crags and rocks. Boxes floated on the waves. Pieces of the once graceful ship littered the beach. As for the bodies of the captain, his three mates and 17 crewmen, all were present.
The kind people of the island buried the victims at the North Head Cemetery. A wooden plaque was erected. In 1910, a permanent monument was constructed... a half holiday declared in the community...a memorial service held. At the service was one of the survivors, James Lawson. In an ironic ending to the tragedy, this Danish native had returned to Grand Manan, married an island woman, started a successful business and remained a well-loved member of the community until his death in 1918, aged 84.
Moss now covers the old stone monument, but it stands as a reminder of the Lord Ashburton tragedy. An unspoken memorial to all,...islanders or strangers, who lost their lives to fickle seas.
The Wreck of The Tug Gypsum King
Built in 1899 in Port Richmond, New York, the Gypsum King was designed to carry gypsum from Nova Scotia to the eastern United States. Over the next few years, she was a familiar sight in the Bay of Fundy. Her master was a New Brunswicker, a Saint John man, Captain Fred Blizzard.
On January 15, 1906, the Gypsum King left New York on a routine trip to Nova Scotia. She docked in Eastport, Maine on Friday, January 19; anchoring in the lower harbour until the following day, on account of the fog. Even though the fog remained thick, the tug set out in the late afternoon . At about four o'clock the next morning, Monday, January 22, the Gypsum King struck on the St. Mary Ledge, the outermost of the Murr Ledges off Grand Manan.
The crew of a dozen men took to the boat and with only a compass to guide them, they rowed through the dark fog for Grand Manan, eventually making Seal Cove. When the tug crew arrived in Seal Cove, the weather cleared some, and they engaged a boat to take them to Eastport to get a tug to return to the Gypsum King.
When it became apparent that little could be salvaged off the wreck it was sold to Captain John Ingersoll of North Head, Grand Manan. He paid only $175 for the wreck. He agreed with public speculation that there was little of significance, however, the captain had his eye on the electric search light on the tug and other valuable fittings. Unfortunately, the investment turned sour. The following week, before the speculators had a chance to strip much of anything off the wreck, a heavy wind hit the Murr Ledges and the Gypsum King slid off the ledge, broke up and disappeared under the waves where it lay undisturbed for over 60 years.
In 1968 two local divers were the first to visit the wreck. While they went in search of brass and copper fittings, they ended up recovering some highly interesting artifacts including the cast brass steering pedestal. Although this weighed about 113 kilograms (250lbs.), it was too unique to sell for scrap, so it was donated to the Grand Manan Museum. Another item that went to the Museum was a small brass cannon, probably used for firing lines onto other vessels or barges, which could be used for hauling the towing hawser over from the tug to the vessel being towed.
Local students had the opportunity to assist in the restoration of these items. The artifacts were taken to the high school where the calcareous growth was removed with a dilute solution of hydrochloric acid. After rinsing these thoroughly, students assisted in buffing them to their attractive brass finish, and then made up wooden bases on which to set them for display. They are still on exhibit at the Museum in the lower level of the Marine Gallery.
One of the divers decided to try to convey the layout of the wreck in a pictorial way. It was a unique challenge to try to put the components of the wreck together from memory. Particularly challenging was the fact that underwater visibility is only about six metres (20 ft.) or so, much smaller than the scope of a wreck, so there is no way that he could see or photograph the whole wreck at once. In the end he created a valuable picture for those on land who would never see beneath the ocean's surface.
The Wreck of the Barque Wallace
Gazing into the large glass display case in the Walter B. McLaughlin Marine Gallery of the Grand Manan Museum, one can only marvel at the condition of the shipwreck artifacts. With the exception of a bit of coral here and there, the tea pots, trays and bowls betray little evidence they spent more than a century on the ocean floor. Artifacts from the barque Wallace make up the bulk of the exhibit.
The barque was built in Saint John, N.B., about 1840. In April, 1841, she sailed from the port of Liverpool under the command of Captain Toohig bound for Saint John with a general cargo. This included iron and copper for making fastenings for shipbuilding, several hundred tons of coal, and a variety of other merchandise, from anchors to coffee mills, from spikes and nails to common pins; spoons, cutlery, and even paints.
However, on Sunday, May 23, she struck one of the Murr Ledges, later to become known as the Wallace Rocks. All hands were saved, but the wreck broke adrift from the rock and most of the wreckage sank in an area about 900 metres (3,000 ft.) due east of the ledge, where it was discovered in May, 1967, in 30 metres (100 ft.) of water.
Although there are no treasure chests or gold doubloons, it is fascinating to look at the artifacts discovered. Several items were in nearly perfect condition and provide an excellent portrait of the sort of cargo being shipped from England to Canada in the mid-19th century.