Northwest Passage

Finding Canada’s other shipwrecks

Researchers and archaeologists examine part of what they believe is the wreck of the Sainte-Anne in the St. Lawrence.

By Morgan Lowrie - The Canadian Press

While Sir John Franklin’s doomed search for the Northwest Passage looms large in the Canadian consciousness, thousands of other shipwrecks lie in obscurity at the bottom of the country’s waterways.

The Arctic Research Foundation recently announced the discovery of HMS Terror during the latest in a series of high-profile expeditions that also led to the discovery of Franklin’s other ship, HMS Erebus, in 2014.

But as the country celebrates the apparent end to an enduring Arctic mystery, a team in Quebec has been quietly trying to put a name to at least some of the lesser-known shipwrecks in the St. Lawrence River.

The project, which is co-ordinated by the Universite de Montreal and the Archeo-Mamu Cote-Nord archeology association, seeks to document the shipwrecks along the northern coast of the river with the help of local recreational divers.

The project’s main archeologist says the provincial government has only a fraction of the river’s shipwrecks on record.

“At the level of the (Quebec) Culture Department, there are between 80 and 100 that are documented, but I think there are more than 1,000 left to find,” Vincent Delmas said.

“There’s a lot of work still to do.” He says the St. Lawrence was once an autoroute where ships carrying goods to and from Europe succumbed to ice, storms and the many rocks and reefs lurking just below the surface.

Delmas says parts of the river’s north shore were also rich in iron, which could interfere with ship’s compasses, creating a “Bermuda Triangle”-like effect.

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