Nova Scotia

'It's not pretty, but it's important': Residents rally to save piece of sunken vessel

While many coastal communities in Nova Scotia have fought hard to get rid of their derelict vessels, the residents of Drum Head have fallen in love with theirs and don't want to see it go.

Boiler from a schooner that went down off Drum Head, N.S., has sat just offshore for a century

The boiler is the only remnant of a vessel that sank off the shores of Drum Head, N.S., in the 1920s. (Save The Drumhead Boiler/Facebook)

For a century, a rusting hunk of metal has been part of the scenery in the waters off Drum Head, N.S., and residents of the small fishing community don't want to see it go. 

"It's a big, rusty boiler. It's not pretty, but it's important," said Rachel Langley, who can see what's left of the steamer Scotia from her window.

The partially submerged boiler is the only remnant of the 42-metre vessel that caught fire and was hauled offshore to sink in 1921. While other coastal communities in Nova Scotia have fought hard to get rid of their derelict vessels, many residents in Drum Head say their boiler has become a beloved landmark.

"Everybody in the community grew up with it," Langley told CBC Radio's Information Morning. "They've taken their children there, they take their grandchildren there. It's been a part of our lives the whole time everybody has been here."

The boiler sticks out of the water about three metres at low tide, and is located in a small inlet off Harbour Island. Locals will often dive around the structure to see crabs, clams and scallops that have made it their home, Langley said.

"I know a young gentleman down the road that at least five generations of his family have taken their children, and then taken their grandchildren, and it's something they look forward to doing with their ... new children," she said.

Among 14 vessels to be removed

Langley started a Facebook group called Save the Drum Head Boiler and an online petition that's garnered about 300 signatures. 

"We are a community of 37 population, so I thought that was pretty good," she said.

The Drum Head boiler is on a list of 14 abandoned vessels that the province has vowed to clean up. Earlier this year, it received money from the federal government through Transport Canada's Abandoned Boats Program.

The province has said a total of $593,620 will go toward the removal effort, which began in January.

Earlier this year, the province announced it had secured federal funding to remove 14 abandoned vessels from across the province. (Nova Scotia Lands)

Langley said she's heard the boiler is set to be hauled up in late summer by Nova Scotia Lands, which has been tasked with carrying out the removals.

A spokesperson for the provincial Crown corporation declined an interview, but said in a statement the 14 vessels were chosen based on complaints from the public.

"Vessels considered for removal were brought to the attention of the province through a complaints process by individuals who have concerns about the vessels for various reasons, including safety and esthetics," wrote Trish Smith in an email to CBC News. 

Something special about this shipwreck

But Langley said she's done some sleuthing, and can't figure out who complained about the beloved boiler. She's convinced it's not someone who lives in Drum Head.

She's also concerned that dragging the wreck up will do more harm than good to the marine environment. 

Langley said she hasn't received a response to the petition, but she's been in contact with local MP Mike Kelloway. Langley is now looking into the possibility of having the boiler designated a historic shipwreck site in the hopes that will save it.

There's something special about the old, rusty boiler that's hard to put into words, she said.

"It's the Drum Head boiler. It just is what it is."

With files from CBC Radio's Information Morning


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