Nova Scotia

Canadian Coast Guard discovers shipwreck off Nova Scotia coast

The Canadian Coast Guard uncovers several large wooden fragments of a ship believed to date back to the 19th century while trawling the waters off Nova Scotia.

Preliminary research reveals the fragments could belong to a ship built in Sweden in 1877

Earlier this month, the Canadian Coast Guard uncovered several large wooden fragments of a ship believed to date back to the 19th century. (Katie Cottreau-Robins)

The Canadian Coast Guard uncovered a mystery earlier this month while trawling the waters off Nova Scotia.

Several large wooden fragments of a ship, believed to date back to the 19th century, were pulled from the ocean floor off the coast south of Yarmouth.

According to David Jennings, with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the CCGS Alfred Needler was conducting dragging operations on Georges Bank as part of the annual fish survey conducted for the DFO.

Preliminary research conducted by the Nova Scotia Museum suggests the wreck may match a Swedish-built ship that sank in 1906. (Katie Cottreau-Robins)

But instead of fish, their nets hauled in parts of a shipwreck.

An antique ship in a fishnet

"It's fairly rare. I've been here quite a while and it's the first time I've heard of them bringing up an antique ship in a fishing net," said David Jennings, a spokesman for the DFO.

The coast guard vessel brought the fragments to be unloaded in Dartmouth, where Katie Cottreau-Robins, curator of archeology for the Nova Scotia Museum, and her team were waiting to inspect the pieces. 

"It's exciting to see something of that antiquity and to have a chance to view it up close and try to understand what it is and what it represents," Cottreau-Robins said.

Significant fragments

She says while some parts had suffered from being exposed to ocean elements for so long, other sections were quite well-preserved.

Nova Scotia's shipwreck database says the Marion C, formerly known as the Orion, sprung a leak and sunk in the area the fragments were discovered, in 1906. (Katie Cottreau-Robins)

"A couple of these pieces were quite significant — one approximately 20 feet [six metres] long and two tonnes," she said. 

"We have a section of the hull where there's copper sheathing on the outside and we could see that very clearly, and all the rivets holding the copper onto the frame," she said.

The wreck of the Marion C?

Nova Scotia maintains a shipwreck database and preliminary research done by the Nova Scotia Museum found a couple of records Cottreau-Robins says are good potential matches for what the coast guard pulled from the ocean — a later 19th century wooden-framed vessel.

The fragments are currently in Dartmouth at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography. (Katie Cottreau-Robins)

The Orion was one vessel to pique their interest. It was built in Sweden in 1877 and was in the Maritimes in 1905, loaded with salt from Spain bound for Saint John, when it encountered bad weather and ended up being towed into Halifax.

In 1906, the ship, now named the Marion C, was part of the British fleet when it sprung a leak while sailing from Bridgewater, N.S., to New York and sank in the general location the wreck was discovered by the coast guard.

Trying to uncover the story

"This is preliminary research and we like to take our time and we'll continue to look at other resources and references and try to tell the story," she said. 

The fragments are currently being held at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography and Cottreau-Robins says her team will continue their research while trying to determine what will come of the fragments.

"We have to think about what is best," she said. "Do we leave these significant pieces just out on a dock somewhere under a tarp? Is there a wet pit available? Is there an area close by where we can submerge these pieces so they don't degrade further and we know where they are and we can look at them again if we want to do further research?

With files from Maritime Noon