The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Daily British Whig (Kingston, ON), 4 May 1853

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p.2 Further Particulars of the Burning of the Steamer Ocean Wave

Statement of Captain Belyea, of the Schr. Emblem

The following thrilling account of the burning of the Steamer Ocean Wave we have taken down from the lips of Captain Belyea, of the Schooner Emblem, to whom the greater portion of those saved owe their lives:-

At half-past one o'clock A.M. Captain Belyea in the schooner Emblem, of Bronte, first saw the fire. At first he supposed it was on shore, but soon discovered it was a vessel on the lake. He immediately shook out the reefs from his sails, for it was blowing heavily, and made all haste towards the devoted vessel, and soon heard the steamer blowing off. At first he thought she was deserted, as he could see no person on the wreck; but as he approached the fire, he heard the most appalling shrieks and cries, and immediately bore up and lowered his boat, as the immense volume of flame rendered it dangerous to approach too closely. On going near he discovered a number of people clinging to the braces underneath the guards, and to the paddle-wheels and rudder, while the flames were roaring over their heads, shooting high into the air, and curling down into the water, forming an arching canopy of awful grandeur around the devoted beings; while the water all round was hissing, boiling, and foaming, with the intense heat, like a mighty cauldron. The most piercing shrieks and agonizing cries of despair, intermingled with the roaring of the flames and the crashing of the falling smoke-pipes and mast at this moment, completed the horror of the scene. There being five hundred kegs of butter on board, it added fuel to the flames, and, melting, ran in flaming torrents over the sides of the vessel, smoothing down the water on the lee side. When the boat first approached the burning vessel, they could only take off two persons, as it was found impossible to approach near enough to the others for the flames, which mounted as high as the schooner's topmast-head. Captain Belyea then procured heaving-lines, backed his boat as near to the wreck as he dared, and with the lines pulled the poor creatures off one by one. While engaged in this work, more than one life was sacrificed to the over eager anxiety to be the first saved - frequently three, and sometimes four, jumping at a time at the ropes, in spite of reiterated intreaties and remonstrances of Capt. Belyea and his assistants. Mrs. Stevenson and the second mate of the Ocean Wave, Mr. ____, were hanging on to the paddle-house, which had tipped over, and at this moment the smoke-pipes and the mast fell across them - the bell attached to the mast falling so near to them that the second mate of the Ocean Wave took hold of the tongue and rang an alarm.

The schooner Georgiana, Capt. Henderson, now came up to the assistance of Captain Belyea, and with the vessel's boats tendered the most energetic assistance in ( ) those in the water and upon the wreck; and Capt. Belyea says that all whom Capt. Henderson picked up must inevitably have been lost, if it had not been for the ( ) assistance of the boats of the Georgiana, as it was blowing so hard, and those in the water were so benumbed, that they must have sunk before he could have saved all. The Purser of the Ocean Wave had got three planks balanced across the rudder, on which he had placed eight ( ) persons. He acted nobly throughout the trying scene, cheering them up and inspiring them with hope. Captain Kuyer and his wife, together with a number of others, were hanging on under the guards, as the flames roared over their heads; and had not the burning vessel slewed round and enabled them to back their boats closer to them, every soul of them must have been lost.

After they got the last boat load off, the steamer Scotland, Capt. Patterson, came up between the Emblem and the wreck, and slowed his engine, asking what it was. Captain Belyea told him the Ocean Wave, and that he had some of the passengers and crew on board his schooner, and that he thought there were some more between the vessel and the shore; Captain Patterson made no reply, but ( ) bade him good by - put on steam, and went off. The Ocean Wave sank about fifteen minutes after the Scotland ( ). At this time it was ten minutes to four ( ), and the Captain and Mate of the Ocean Wave were in the water between ( ) and the shore. Captain Belyea ( )ut in the Emblem until six in the morning, when the schooner ( ), Captain Wallace, of Port Hope, ( ) asked if he could be of any ( ) upon Capt. B's representations ( )ly sailed towards the shore, in ( ) those who were thought to be in ( ) they had, however, been ( ) previously by a fishing boat. Capt. ( ) bore away for Kingston, where ( ) his suffering passengers ( ) past 4 o'clock in the afternoon ( ) had to work his way down ( ) wind.

( ) account of this most distressing given by the Captain of the ( ) and it agrees in all essentials ( )ents of those who were saved. ( ) giving us the above plain ( ) with that modesty which ( ) true bravery, is silent as ( ) merits on this occasion ( ) gratefully borne witness ( ) who owe their lives to ( ) courage. To such men ( ) 2nd Mate and Mr. Oliver, ( ) Ocean Wave, as well as ( ), of the Georgiana, it ( )ward to feel that Providence ( ) them the instruments of ( ) valuable lives; but the public ( ) will promptly and liberally reward these brave men in a more substantial manner. We have already heard of a subscription being set on foot, for the purpose of presenting them with some memorial of their gallant conduct; we trust it will be a liberal one, so as to encourage others in like circumstances to emulate the conduct of these gallant men.

N.B. - It is only justice to Captain Patterson, of the steamer Scotland, to mention, that Captain Belyea states that he feels confident that Captain Patterson must have misunderstood him (Capt. B.) when he told him that there were others drifting between the wreck and the shore.

-Ocean Wave discussed.

-The Canal - Erie Canal not being managed properly. [Chicago Tribune]

-Coroner's Inquest - on victims of Ocean Wave.

-Tug Line Notice - Thos. Maxwell & Co.

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4 May 1853
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  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 44.22976 Longitude: -76.48098
Rick Neilson
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pd [more details]
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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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Daily British Whig (Kingston, ON), 4 May 1853