Hamilton & Scourge Update

Ghost Ships – Hamilton and Scourge National Historic Site of Canada Condition Survey 2008

(Written Thursday May 15, 2008)

The City of Hamilton convened key partners to conduct an underwater Remote Operating Vehicle (ROV) survey of the Hamilton and Scourge wreck site from May 11 through 15, 2008.  The survey was to determine the present condition of these wrecks and is being wrapped up with the removal of mooring buoys this afternoon.

This morning aboard the CCGS Griffon, Ian and I had the great pleasure and privilege of attending a special event to honour the U.S. Navy personnel who died in service and to hear some preliminary survey findings.  Members of the media and officials representing the project partners were on board.  I will outline below information provided to us, as well as some personal observations.  Actual survey images have been forwarded to us and I have provided them below.

Background:  The Hamilton and Scourge are two United States Navy War of 1812 schooners that sank in deep waters offshore from St. Catharines in 1813.  In 1980, ownership of the wrecks was transferred from the U.S. Navy to the Royal Ontario Museum.  The ROM later transferred ownership to the City of Hamilton, and the vessels now comprise the Hamilton and Scourge National Historic Site of Canada.  These ships provide an unprecedented insight into life in the maritime community of Lake Ontario, and are the final resting places of more than 50 U.S. Navy sailors and service personnel who died serving their country.

Partners in this project included the City of Hamilton, ASI Group Ltd., Parks Canada, Canadian Navy/Joint Task Force Atlantic, United States Navy, United States Consulate General, Canadian Coast Guard and the Ontario Ministry of Culture.   I have background information on these partners if anyone has further interest, and for more information about the Hamilton and Scourge National Historic Site of Canada, please visit www.hamilton.ca

Teams from ASI Group Ltd. of St. Catharines and Parks Canada conducted the survey from the HMCS Kingston, a Canadian Navy Ship.  Along with other team members, Jonathan Moore of Parks Canada was director of the project’s underwater archaeological work and Darren Keyes of ASI was project director of the underwater survey team.

This survey project was blessed with both outstanding visibility and weather conditions.  A previous survey was completed to determine optimum positioning of the mooring buoys, which were placed on each of the wrecks by the Griffon on Sunday.  All indications are that the survey was highly successful and all participants are extremely pleased with the outcome.

We boarded the Griffon at 8:30 a.m. this morning.  Following a safety briefing, at 9:00 a.m. we proceeded to the HMCS Kingston, on station above the wrecks.

While en route, we were allowed to tour the Griffon and attended a presentation by Ian Kerr-Wilson, Manager of Museums & Heritage Presentation of the City of Hamilton.  He recapped the history and challenges of stewardship of the site, as well as the longer-term goals and work plans.  A slide presentation of captured images confirmed the incredible visibility and underscored the skill level of the survey team.   Advances in technology will allow for creation of three dimensional images.  Exact duplication of images from previous surveys will allow for accurate tracking of changes.  Research will also be conducted on the effects of mussels on the integrity of the wrecks, and a longer-term goal will be to map the debris field.

Once on station, a contingent of officers and survey staff were received from the Kingston, and guest speakers addressed the group at the stern of the ship.  Ian Kerr Wilson made preliminary remarks and speakers included U.S. Consul General John Nay, Chief Marine Archaeologist of Parks Canada, Robert Grenier, and Assistant Commissioner, Canadian Coast Guard, Central & Arctic Region, Michael Gardiner.

 U.S. Navy Captain Steven Luce then read the names of the men who had perished on the ship.  Even though almost two hundred years have passed, this simple act brought home the reality of the men who died on these ships.  A minute of silence was observed, and flowers were dropped into the water as a symbol of remembrance.

Following refreshments, the Kingston contingent returned to their ship and we were returned to Lock One.  During the ride back, Jonathan Moore was kind enough to show us more images of the survey on his laptop.  He will be doing research and analysis of the results.

Let’s all keep our fingers crossed – with luck we will have a presentation at Shipwrecks 2009 on the survey project.

What a fabulous experience this day was!!!

Barb Marshall

Remembrance Ceremonies

Photo's are Copyright © of  Barbara Marshall
Boarding CCGS Griffon below Lock 1

Griffon Name Plate

Griffon's Bell  (used in ceremony)

Ceremony Held on Flight Deck

Both Flags Flown due to US Military On Board

Brian Prince (left) Save Ontario Shipwrecks President & Ian Marshall (right) NDA Member on Flight Deck overlooking HMCS Kingston  moored over Scourge

Ian on Griffon's Bridge

U.S. Consul General John Nay 

Chief Marine Archaeologist of Parks Canada,
Robert Grenier

Assistant Commissioner, Canadian Coast Guard,
Central & Arctic Region, Michael Gardiner

U.S. Navy Captain Steven Luce

Cape Storm (Port Weller Rescue Boat) Transferring Military and Survey Personnel between HMCS Kingston and CCGS Griffon

Off Duty Crew at Ceremony

Flowers on the Water

Barb Marshall after Ceremony

Misc. Photo's after Ceremony

Survey Photos, Sonar & Digital Imaging
Photo's are Copyright © of the 2008 Hamilton & Scourge Survey

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