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5 famous Canadian shipwrecks

 

The Titanic. (Wikimedia/Public domain)

One of the most beautiful things about Canada is its many coastlines. Its waters are home to all kinds of amazing marine life. But these waters are also known to be the final resting place of a number of ships. Read on to learn more about some of the most well-known Canadian shipwrecks.

SS Edmund Fitzgerald

The Edmund Fitzgerald in 1971.

The Edmund Fitzgerald in 1971. (Wikimedia/Greenmars/CC BY-SA 3.0) 

This freighter sank on November 10, 1975, off the coast of Sault Ste. Marie in Lake Superior. The Edmund Fitzgerald regularly carried iron ore from mines to various ports across the Great Lakes for over 17 years. It was the largest ship on the Great Lakes at the time. But on a fateful day in 1975, the Fitzgerald was travelling from Superior, Wisconsin, to an island on the Detroit River when it came upon a storm. High winds and waves reaching nine metres battered the freighter. Experts aren't sure if it was the waves or an issue with the ship itself that resulted in its sinking. Either way, all 29 crew members aboard the ship were lost. The boat is remembered in a famous song called The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald by Canadian singer Gordon Lightfoot.

HMS Erebus

A drawing of the Erebus and the Terror, the two ships on the Franklin expedition.

A drawing of the Erebus and the Terror, the two ships on the Franklin expedition. (Wikimedia/public domain)

The HMS Erebus was part of an expedition led by English explorer Sir John Franklin. It had been involved in several voyages, but in 1845 it set out to find the Northwest Passage — a route that would allow travel through the Arctic Ocean. The Erebus became trapped in Arctic ice. With nowhere to go, the crew abandoned the ship and tried to walk in search of shelter. But they did not survive in the harsh climate. It took almost 170 years and at least six expeditions to finally find the wreck of the Erebus. In September 2014, a team of Canadian scientists and archaeologists discovered the wreckage of the ship on the Arctic seafloor off the coast of Nunavut. Amazingly, the Erebus was found in almost perfect condition.

The Robert Kerr

Scuba diving the historic Robert Kerr shipwreck.

The Robert Kerr became known as "the ship that saved Vancouver." Originally designed as a sailboat, it was transported to British Columbia where it became a barge that carried coal between Vancouver Island and the mainland. In June 1886, the Robert Kerr earned its nickname by coming to the rescue when a brush fire swept into the city of Vancouver. As the city burned, the crew invited those fleeing the fire to come aboard the barge. At least 150 people remained on the ship, safely watching as fire engulfed much of the city. But things didn’t end happily for the boat. In 1911, the Robert Kerr struck a reef along the shores of British Columbia. While the crew safely abandoned the ship, it sunk to the sea floor. It was eventually designated as a heritage site, and today the Robert Kerr is a popular spot with scuba divers looking to see marine life.

Sweepstakes

The Sweepstakes schooner sits just below the surface in Big Tub Harbour.

The Sweepstakes schooner sits just below the surface in Big Tub Harbour. (Wikimedia/Serena Livingston/CC BY-SA 2.0)

Believe it or not, it's easy to spot the shipwreck of Sweepstakes. This schooner was built in Burlington, Ontario, in 1867. It was used to haul coal and was transporting its cargo in Lake Huron in 1885 when it was damaged in a rocky area of the lake. Sweepstakes (or Sweeps, as it was also known) was towed into a harbor to be repaired. Unfortunately, it sank while it was waiting to be fixed. Since the ship rests just seven metres below the surface, it can be easily seen in the lake's clear water even to this day. Tourists and divers often travel to the area for a glimpse of Sweepstakes. And many consider it to be the world’s most beautiful shipwreck.

Titanic

The Titanic before leaving the docks in Southampton, England.

The Titanic before leaving the docks in Southampton, England. (Wikimedia/public domain)

The Titanic is probably the most famous shipwreck ever recorded. The massive ship set sail on its first Atlantic crossing on April 10, 1912, leaving Southampton, England, for New York City. It was the world’s largest human-made moving object at the time, stretching almost as long as three football fields. Unfortunately, just five days later, the Titanic struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic Ocean, just off the coast of Newfoundland. In less than three hours, it sank out of sight. Since the ship carried just 20 lifeboats only 706 of the 2,222 passengers who were aboard were rescued. The wreck of the Titanic was not discovered on the seafloor for 74 years. Since then, nearly 6,000 relics from the ship have been recovered.
 

A photo of the supposed iceberg that sunk the Titanic taken by Captain W. F. Wood of the SS Estonian, just two days before it was struck by the ship.

A photo of the supposed iceberg that sunk the Titanic taken by Captain W. F. Wood of the SS Estonian, just two days before it was struck by the ship. (Wikimedia/public domain)