Tales from the deep: Historian shares stories of Manitoba shipwrecks

Tales from the deep: Historian shares stories of Manitoba shipwrecks

There are thousands of sunken ships in Canada’s waters, but did you know some of them are in Manitoba?

Unlike other countries, Canada currently has no national laws protecting heritage shipwrecks.

But CBC has obtained documents showing Parks Canada is quietly trying to write a plan to protect these historically important sites.

Manitoba historian Gordon Goldsborough likes the idea because “these things could eventually disappear, and unfortunately, the history they present is gone too,” he said.

Though you wouldn’t think the prairies would be the site of famed shipwrecks, Goldborough said there a few notable ones in Manitoba.

The MV Ithaca is one of the most visible, sitting just outside Bird Cove, about 20 kilometres east of Churchill.

The ship ran aground in 1960 while headed for Rankin Inlet after its rudder broke. It has been lodged there ever since.

Then there’s the SS Alpha lodged in the Assiniboine River, which ran aground about 110km west of Winnipeg in 1885 during the province’s short-lived steamboat era. 

It can still be seen when the waters in the river are very low.

A photo of the SS Alpha circa 1878. The boat would run aground in the Assiniboine River in 1885. (Manitoba Archives)

Goldsborough said he thinks these shipwrecks are important to preserve because of the stories they tell.

“I found it fascinating to think about the lives of the various people affected by these ships,” he said.

Thousands of ships in Canadian waters

A Parks Canada underwater archaeologist during recording of the wreck of HMS Erebus. In 2014, divers identified artifacts including brass cannons, a cast-bronze bell, and the handle of a sword. Since then, 64 artifacts have been recovered after more than than 250 hours of diving. (Parks Canada)

An internal presentation obtained by CBC says the “target for implementation of regulations is summer 2019.”

The transport committee heard from one expert that there are about 30,000 to 40,000 shipwrecks in and around the Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence River and the coasts of Canada.

The effort of Parks Canada to save the shipwrecks is a revival of an earlier initiative that in 2004, which produced a proposed set of heritage wreck regulations by 2011. However, it died under  the Conservative government of Stephen Harper.

Published at Sun, 12 Aug 2018 14:53:08 -0400