The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Oswego Commercial Times (Oswego, NY), Dec. 2, 1856

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Singular Fact in Regard to the Navigation of Lake Ontario

Under this head the Rochester Union and Oswego Palladium lately stated that during the past twelve years more than a dozen vessels have gone ashore between the mouth of Genesee River and a point a dozen miles west, and in every instance the disaster has been attributed to defect in the compasses by which the vessels were steered.

Our attention was called to the article which led us to make some enquiries concerning the probability of the existence of what the Palladium termed "some influence on shore in the vicinity, to which vessels tend. " We were told by mariners who have had the greatest experience on the Lake, that the supposition that there is any local attraction at that point is unfounded.

The schooner Andover went ashore at Braddock's Point, and the Capt. swore in his protest that he was steering northwest from Sodus Light. That does not prove that he had no attraction in shipboard. The schooner H. L. Whitney also beached near by, and on a night when the moon shone in all its splendor. We are informed that the mistake in that case was in entering the Bay, and that the wheelsman was following the shore and neglecting his compass.

Some years ago two vessels loaded with iron went ashore, and on examination it was found the needles did not vary, but when the same compasses were removed a short distance from the vessels the needles took a correct point, proving an attraction on board the vessels. We are also told that it is a common occurrence for vessels laden with iron to attract the compass, in which case experienced Captains learn the variation and make calculations in steering accordingly.

In such cases the usual variation is two or three points, but in the cases mentioned by the Union and Palladium, there seems to have been a "variation" changing the compass from North-west to South-west. If such an attraction does exist, how is it that any vessel in the night ever passes that point? Captains who have sailed for a quarter of a century, and commandants of Steamers, tell us that they have never known of any "local attraction" at that point, nor do they believe there is now. The scoff at the idea, and attribute the disasters to other causes.

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Dec. 2, 1856
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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.
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Oswego Commercial Times (Oswego, NY), Dec. 2, 1856