Dreams of treasure in N.S. that turned out to be Cheerios and lard

When Glace Bay treasure hunters towed floating cargo ship containers to shore in 1981 they hoped to find wealth. But they found lard.

In 1981, Glace Bay residents hoped to find treasure in their catch from a sunken ship

When a sunken ship yielded no treasure

41 years ago
Duration 1:53
In July 1981 some Glace Bay, Cape Breton treasure seekers were disappointed when they opened the containers they towed to shore.

On July 20, 1981, the container ship Berglind sank off the coast of Cape Breton in Nova Scotia.

The next day, The National's George McLean told viewers, "nobody was injured, and divers have managed to prevent any fuel oil from polluting the Cape Breton coastline."

But the story had just begun for the residents of the town of Glace Bay, where CBC reporter Bob Allison joined a crowd of treasure-seekers on the pier.

"It started out," he said, "like the traditional mariner's windfall on the high seas, where what floats is fair game for all."

The pier in Glace Bay harbour was crowded with treasure seekers hopeful for valuable finds. (The National/CBC Archives)

In spite of the "possibility of hazardous contents," Allison said fishing boat captains caught and towed containers into the Glace Bay harbour and, hoping for the kind of "instant wealth" from tales of past shipwrecks, opened them.

Lard, and plenty of it

A Glace Bay treasure-seeker unloads lard from a sunken cargo ship container in 1981. (The National/CBC Archives)

The ship was a supply ship on its way from the U.S. to a military base in Iceland, and the treasure-seekers were rewarded with the contents of floating pantries.

A story in the Globe and Mail from July 23 reported that "a crowd of about 2,000" had gathered, only to find that their catch was as mundane as "lard, bread, turkeys, cheese, salami, peas and carrots."

Art Legraw was one who had already solved the mystery of his gift from the sea.

Asked what he thought he might get, he summed it up in one word — "treasure."

Glace Bay, N.S., resident Art Legraw laughed when sharing the secret of his cargo ship find -- Cheerios. (The National/CBC Archives)

"What did you get?" he was asked by Allison.

"A container full of Cheerios," he laughed.

The good news, though, was that under maritime law, finders were allowed to keep "up to one-third of the value of their find," Allison confirmed.

The bad news for Legraw was that "the container was worth more than the Cheerios."

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