The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Oswego Palladium (Oswego, NY), Nov. 13, 1833

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Steam Boat Disasters on Lake Ontario. - During the late gale, the steamboat St. George broke one of her shafts, and was towed into port by the Great Britain. The steamboat John By, which plied between York and the head of the Lake, was driven ashore near the Credit, and it is feared will prove a total wreck. The new and elegant boat Britannia sunk at Kingston. The new steamboat William Avery of Oswego, was towed into Kingston by the Great Britain, which boat fell in with her in distress.

We copy the above from the Albany Argus of the 30th ult. and would have noticed it before had our engagements permitted. The reader would certainly suppose from this paragraph that the great October gale had occasioned quite a chapter of accidents on Lake Ontario; whereas the only accident known to us which took place during that gale was to the schooner Byron, which was driven on shore and suffered a partial loss of her cargo. The accidents collected in the article from the Argus we believe all occurred, but at different times. -

None of them, except the case of the John By, were caused by stress of weather - and that she suffered must be fairly imputable to defect of power in the boat, as most of Ontario steamboats were upon the lake during the gale, and reached their ports in safety. The accident to the Britannia in the harbor of Kingston happened alongside the wharf, and was caused, we are told, by some peculiar circumstance having no relation to the weather.

Indeed, if there be a haven in the world where a vessel can be perfectly secure, it must be the harbor of Kingston, which is closely land-locked on every side.

The accident to the William Avery occurred in ordinary weather, not in the lake, but up the Bay of Quinte, where she was run ashore in consequence of her pilots not being sufficiently familiar with that navigation. if our friends of the Argus had witnessed the great October gale, they would probably be of opinion that towing, just at that moment, was rather an unseasonable operation. We believe the skill and dauntless spirit of the commander of the Great Britain almost unrivaled; still, however, we cannot but think he was at that time amusing himself with something else than towing two steamboats, which appears to have been the case, from the above abstracts.

We notice the above because it is generally known that dreadful disasters occurred during the October gale on Lake Erie. It is well understood by some navigators accustomed as they now are by means of the Welland canal to the navigation of both lakes, that the navigation of Lake Ontario is far safer than that of Lake Ontario. The southwesterly wind which blew during the tremendous gale in October, and which often causes some of our heaviest weather, rakes the whole length of Lake Erie. Before it touches Lake Ontario it must pass over a ridge of land averaging 50 miles in width and rising more than 400 feet above the surface of the lake. Lake Ontario is besides, some three or four hundred feet deeper than Lake Erie, and is almost free from the island and promontories which obstruct the navigation of Lake Erie. Though probably a greater amount of tonnage is employed in the navigation of Lake Ontario than of Lake Erie, yet a loss upon the former lake is of exceedingly rare occurrence compared with the latter. We are particular upon this subject because lake insurance is becoming a matter of considerable movement with our men of business, and it is no more than justice that the superior safety of the Lake Ontario risk should well understood.

Our friends of the Argus will oblige us by noticing this article.

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Nov. 13, 1833
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Richard Palmer
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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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Oswego Palladium (Oswego, NY), Nov. 13, 1833