the Canadian Navy and Coast Guard

Robotic cameras will probe U.S. ships from War of 1812

By Randy Boswell

Canadian scientists will lower robotic probes to the bottom of Lake Ontario next week to conduct the most detailed examination ever of two American ships that sank in a storm during the War of 1812.

The investigation of the wrecks of the Hamilton and the Scourge -- part of the buildup to bicentennial commemorations of the 1812-14 war between Britain and the United States, fought largely in Canada -- could include the first glimpses inside the sunken vessels, which contain the remains of about 50 American sailors lost in the failed invasion of Upper Canada.

The project involves experts from Parks Canada, the Canadian Navy and Coast Guard, as well as private archeologists and officials with the provincial, municipal and American governments.

The five-day, around-the-clock operation -- which is to conclude with a memorial service honouring those who died when the ships went down in August 1813 -- should also quell concerns expressed recently by critics in Canada and the U.S. that too little has been done to research the wrecks or exploit their value as symbols of an epic military struggle, one that ended in a virtual stalemate but shaped the identities of two nations.