MINAS BASIN, FUNDY SHORE SHIPWRECKS (August 29/11)

There was no aboiteau on the Canard River in 1760 and a brigantine making its way at low tide along the upper part of the stream struck a sandbar, toppled over and was stranded. The brig was demolished by the next high tide.

This was one of the first shipwrecks recorded in Kings County, and our reef-filled, sandbar littered shores have witnessed thousands of similar catastrophes. Dan Conlin of the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic says reliable estimates place the number of shipwrecks on our shores as high as 25,000, the largest number occurring between 1850 and 1950.

In contrast to shorelines such as those around Sable Island, relatively few shipwrecks have been recorded in Kings County. We haven’t been entirely spared, however. The often threatening Bay of Fundy, even the relatively quieter waters of Minas Basin have had their share of shipwrecks.

During October, 1828, for example, the 25 ton schooner Mary left Cornwallis with a cargo of apples. The Mary made it around Cape Blomidon into the Bay of Fundy and ran into a storm. During the storm she went ashore at Port Williams (now Port Lorne) and was a total loss. All hands aboard the Mary perished.

This event is recorded in Jack Zinck’s two volume Shipwrecks of Nova Scotia. This lengthy compilation of ship catastrophes reveals that the comparatively placid Minas Basin is dangerous and over the years more than a few sailing ships never made it out of its confines.

In 1871, for example, the 17 ton schooner Achilles sailed from Five Islands on November 30, heading for Windsor. This is a relatively short distance but the Achilles ran into one of those treacherous autumn storms and was wrecked on the Minas shore. Two lives and the cargo were lost.

About three weeks later in the same year, the 72 ton schooner B. F. Chandler left Windsor (destination unknown) and quickly foundered in a storm. A similar fate befell the schooner Delta a few years earlier. Delta never made it out of Minas Basin either. Attempting to sail from Walton to Hantsport, she became yet another shipwreck when, due to a heavy deck load, she toppled in heavy winds.

Similar Minas Basin disasters include the 72 ton G. W. Johnson. Sailing from Parrsboro to Wolfville in the spring of 1879, she was wrecked at Partridge Island. Glide, a 72 ton schooner, attempted to sail from Canning to Boston in the fall of 1889 and never made it out of Minas Basin. Glide was wrecked at Pereau beach when a fire broke out. Another schooner, the 13 ton Golden Eagle, attempted to sail from Canning to Cape Blomidon late in 1897. She was wrecked on the Blomidon shore, apparently a victim of the infamous Big Eddy that swirls around the Cape.

Even in relatively recent times, well beyond the golden age of sail, the Minas Basin continues to have its share of shipwrecks. In 1916 the 40 ton schooner Annie Pearl left Hall’s Harbour on October 13, heading for the Minas Basin. Entering the Basin, she ran up on a sandbar and was stranded. The 76 ton schooner Pansy was another ship that never made it out of Minas Basin. She left Parrsboro on December 12, 1916, and was wrecked on the shoreline near there.

The list goes on and on. In the past two centuries countless sailing ships have been wrecked in the Bay of Fundy and at its head, in the Minas Basin. Except for brief listings in books such as Jack Zinck’s compilation, the story of these ships has never been fully told.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s