The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
British Whig (Kingston, ON), Sept. 20, 1882

Full Text

(Morning Edition)



Bodies Recovered.

Collingwood, Sept. 19th - The schooner Northern Belle, which had been despatched to the scene of the Asia disaster, arrived in port here today at noon, with flags flying at half-mast, giving evidence that some of the bodies of the ill-fated Asia's passengers were on board, which proved to be correct. She had on board the bodies of Captain Savage, First Mate McDonald; Jno. Little, of Sault Ste. Marie, J. Macallpine of Gore Bay, and an unknown, supposed to be that of Mr. McDougall, of the gang of shanty-men.

Mr. Tinkiss was interviewed and his statement varies but little from that already told of the terrible disaster at the time of the accident. The steamer was some 19 or 20 miles from land. A heavy sea struck the boat and sent her over on her side. Many jumped to the hurricane deck. The boats were out from their davits and as the Asia went down were shoved off.

There is no doubt that the upper decks were carried away and floated after the hull sank. The cabin passengers' bodies were washed overboard by the waves as they succumbed to exhaustion or injuries, until only five were left in the metallic boat in which were Mr. Tinkiss and Miss Morrison. One after another they died, the Captain being the last one to give up the battle. About 2 o'clock the survivors landed. They worked about half a mile up the coast and were found on the beach by the Indians as already reported.

Young Tinkess is about 17 years of age. Miss Morrison barely escaped brain fever. She is yet confined to her room and bed.

The Asia contained about thirty staterooms with a single and double berth. Each and all were occupied. There were women and children on board. Two women occupied the same room with Mrs. Morrison and went into the boat with her, but were lost when the boat was capsized the first time. The room occupied by Mr. Tinkiss also contained Mr. Gallagher and Mr. Henry, of Mudge Bay, whose brother was lost on the Manitoulin. The two Henrys were well known lumber men. One woman with her four small children, and another with two have been mentioned by Miss Morrison. As near as can be learned 85 passengers went on board at Collingwood, 13 at Owen Sound, and the crew consisted of about 25 all told.


Public feeling is again harrowed by the news from the Georgian Bay in which a propeller has gone down and nearly a hundred persons met a watery grave. The Asia was considered sea worthy, and she was certainly commanded by skilful men, but she was short and high, and, especially if light, strained fearfully in a gale. It is evident that in the blow, of whose severity we had ample evidence in the damage which vessels suffered on Lake Ontario, she was top heavy though well loaded, and that in the trough of the sea she careened too much, became unmanageable, shipped water, filled and sank. Fortunately there are survivors who leave no doubt as to the nature of the accident. Boats were launched, and a brave effort made to save the passengers and crew. So great was the storm which swept the Bay that but one of them reached the shore. Scores made their escape from one source of danger to fare no better with life buoys and the other contrivances that are supposed to offer some protection to life. They beat the foaming billows wildly for a few moments or minutes and then disappeared, the ceaseless thunder and roaring hurricane being the last sounds to reach them as the waves engulphed them. The meteorological reports are now a safeguard against disaster, but they are by no means infallible, and last week seem to have given little or no warning of the gale which proved so disastrous. The equinoctials are now upon us, and it will be well if they pass without further misfortune. The Asia's loss, with all but two of those on board, is the saddest event of the season.

(Evening Edition)



As the steamer Alexandria was passing through the Beauharnois Canal on Thursday night something fouled the gate at lock No. 7. It proved to be the body of a young lady 19 years of age, dressed in black.

The schr. Blazing Star, Detroit, 19,456 bush. wheat; Wm. Home, Detroit, 21,926 bush. wheat, and the prop. Argyle, from Toledo, with 7,000 bushels wheat, discharged their cargoes at the M.T. Company's wharf.

Marine matters are remarkably dull. The arrivals are few. Dock laborers and sailors are hilarious in this holiday season. The regular boats came in crowded with passengers today.

The arrivals of the following vessels consigned to the Chicago & St. Lawrence Forwarding Company are reported: Schrs. Albatross, Toledo, 21,000 bush. wheat; Maggie McRae, Toledo, 23,723 bush. wheat; G.M. Neelon, Toledo, 22,800 bush. wheat; E.P. Dorr, Toledo, 23,301 bush. wheat.

The loss of the schr. Nellie Sherwood is reported. She went down in the gale of Thursday at Cabots Head Point, Georgian Bay, and very near to where the ill-fated prop. Asia sank. She is well known to mariners here, having sailed into this port every season and here had her name changed from Market Drayton to that which she bore at the time of her loss. She was called after the daughter of Capt. Sherwood when he owned the vessel. She has latterly been commanded by Captain Banchard, of Owen Sound, and was valued at $3,000. She was very old, having been built many years ago at Buffalo.


It now transpires that the propeller Asia, which went down in the Georgian Bay, in Thursday's gale, involving a fearful loss of life, was not licensed to carry the number of passengers she had aboard. She was chartered to run in connection with the line to which the Manitoulin belonged, and whose place she filled pending the purchase or construction of another large steamer. The Government Inspector refused to sanction the commission, on the ground that the propeller had not the equipment called for by the law, that she had only boats and life preservers for some 40 persons while she carried 140. The application for new papers, under these changed circumstances, was not granted, but the owners seem to have been non-plussed in consequence, and violated the law day after day with impunity. The marine business is not calculated to make men millionaires quickly, indeed large profits are not common, and when available are eagerly accepted. The Asia's engagement was a fair one, we presume. Possibly it did not justify heavy expenditure in order to Mr. Risley's views (sic), and yet it was such as vessel men are not now a days disposed to ignore. They were not looked after, or their offence was blinked at, and one hundred people perished. The Government is largely responsible for the accident, attended as it is with unutterable anguish and wide spread bereavement. Where can be the sense of passing Acts to the effect that certain protection against shipwreck must be offered to the travelling public that the number of passengers a boat can carry, must be limited, and appointing officers at high salaries to make inspections of boilers and hulls, when, as is the case of the Asia, no attention is paid to them? The evidences of carelessness in the past have been numerous enough, disaster has shown the absolute necessity of Government action, and yet up to the present time there has been a negligence which is simply culpable.



Breaking The Law.

As regards the Asia the following information has been obtained from Messrs. Risley and Meneally, of the Steamboat Inspection office. She belongs, or did belong, to the Great Northern Transit Company, and was originally inspected by Mr. Risley, pronounced seaworthy, and chartered to ply between Windsor and Duluth, but was not authorized, on account of her space and equipments, to carry more than forty passengers, or to sail on the Georgian Bay. On the 24th of July last Mr. Beatty, of Thorold, General Manager of the Company, applied to Mr. Risley for such an amendment of the charter as would empower the Asia to carry 150 passengers, while the Company to which the vessel was leased requested about the same time that the Asia might be permitted to carry 400. Mr. Risley, according to the revised Marine and Fisheries Act, is empowered to grant authority to steamboat owners to sail on a different route from that described in their charter, but not to give authority to carry more passengers than the charter allowed; and he therefore wrote in reply that if the Company added a 17 feet yawl, 130 life preservers, and have a fire engine placed amidships, he would forward their application to the Minister of Marine and Fisheries, though certainly not for more than 130 passengers. It is just possible, therefore, that the Company took it for granted their application would be given, and acted accordingly, which action was of course illegal, always supposing the report that about 100 people perished is found to have been correct. In fact the Department has telegraphed Mr. Risley to employ a lawyer at once, who will initiate proceedings against the Great Northern Transit Company. So particular is the law on this passenger question that the character of the vessel is required to be posted in the most conspicious place on board, so that he who sails may read; but we need hardly say this is not always done, or that even the best regulated steamboats do not scruple in taking more passengers than the law allows. When the Company applied for the amendment they forwarded their charter to Mr. Risley; so that when the ill-fated vessel went down she had none posted in a prominent or other part of her.

Smith & Davis report a risk of $1,500 on the ill-fated Asia and an additional risk of $2,500 to take place at noon on the day she went down. The question to be settled is whether she foundered before or after noon.

The Asia was of the same model as the Lake Erie, of Hamilton, lost on Lake Michigan last year, and the Persia, now on the line between Montreal and St. Catharines. She was regarded as a safe boat, and next to the iron steamer Campana apparently the best fitted to encounter a sea.

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Sept. 20, 1882
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Rick Neilson
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Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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British Whig (Kingston, ON), Sept. 20, 1882