The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Daily British Whig (Kingston, ON), 20 May 1853

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p.2 Investigation Into the Circumstances of the Burning of the Steamer Ocean Wave

Coroner's Inquest upon the Body of One of the Sufferers

General Hospital, May 19th, 1853.

The Jury met at seven o'clock, P.M. pursuant to adjournment. The Coroner read over the Deposition of Capt. Twohy, (already published,) and also that of Mr. Malcolmson, Chief Mate of the Maget.

Kingston, May 16th, 1853.

James Malcolmson, sworn - Is Chief Mate on board the Magnet steamer. Remembers the morning of the 30th of April last, the Magnet was then on her passage to Kingston, having left Cobourg at half-past 7 o'clock, P.M., Toronto time. When to the eastward of the Ducks Light House, saw a fire, which became larger, in the direction of Long Point - examined the light with a glass and could not make it out -gave the glass to one of the wheelsman and he said he could not make it out - they both then supposed the fire to be on shore. Thought the fire to be about fifteen or eighteen miles off, judging from the appearance by the glass. Had witness imagined the light to have been caused by a vessel on fire, would have alarmed Capt. Sutherland immediately, but had no suspicion of that kind in his mind. Had examined the light for full half an hour, but could make nothing of it. When last saw the Ocean Wave when certain, she was at Darlington; but witness saw a vessel which he thinks was the Ocean Wave, coming out of Port Hope Harbour, after the Magnet had backed out of Cobourg. The rate of steaming of the Magnet on ordinary occasions is between twelve and thirteen miles per hour. Passed the steamer Scotland, about half-past two o'clock in the morning of the same day, about six miles to the westward of Nine Mile Point - the Scotland was going to the westward. The Scotland had no Range Light hoisted. Passed the Propeller Lord Elgin, about ten minutes after the Scotland was passed, going to the westward. The Lord Elgin had no Range Light hoisted. Arrived at Carruther's wharf in Kingston Harbour, at about twenty-five minutes to four o'clock, A.M., Toronto time. Witness noticed in his Log Book, (which he produces) the fire he saw towards Long Point, and also the time the Magnet arrived in Kingston Harbour.

By Capt. Weatherly - in rounding the Ducks Light House, on the passage to Kingston, it is customary to alter the course to North-East. This would bring the land (Cape Traverse) between the Magnet and any vessel on fire, if that vessel was to the westward of the False Ducks Islands. Consequently, when Witness saw the light, he thought it was on the shore, and it never occurred to him that it could be a vessel on fire.

By the Coroner - On board of steamers like the Magnet it is usual to divide the crew into two watches, called the Starboard and Larboard watches, or the Captain's and Chief Mate's watches. The Second Mate is ordinarily supposed to keep the Captain's watch, if a competent person. In case of difficulty or danger, when on watch, the Second Mate should apply to the Captain for advice or instruction. Witness thinks that a Second Mate who has only made two or three trips on Lake Ontario, not a competent person to take charge of a large steamer, when approaching the lower end of the lake. It is customary on board the steamer Magnet to have one person constantly on the watch to look after the lights in the Saloon, Mail Room Office, Cabin, and in fact every part of the vessel. The Captain of the Magnet's instruction to him and also to the Second Mate, is always to call him when needed, in case of any incident occurring - such as meeting vessels, etc., etc. Witness made the entry in the Log Book before he heard of the accident to the Ocean Wave; is positive that no fire could occur, on board the Magnet, that in five or six minutes would envelop the whole vessel in flames and render escape by boats hopeless. Knows the Ocean Wave, but knows nothing in her construction or build, which would render her more likely to take fire than any other vessel of her class.

James Malcolmson.

Note - The witness afterwards by letter to the Coroner, explained that where he states in the above evidence that he "saw the fire of the Ocean Wave," he meant "the reflection of the fire."

No other witnesses being present for examination, the Inquest adjourned, to meet again in the Council Chamber of the City Hall, on Tuesday the 31st May instant, when the Coroner hopes to obtain the presence of the Captain of the schooner Emblem, and another important witness and place the jury in a position to terminate their labours, by the return of a verdict, having all the evidence regarding the disastrous affair before them.

-Freights from Canadian Ports - [Toronto Colonist]

-New Propellers - five to be built to run between Oswego and Sandusky.

-Imports - 19; Exports - 19.

-meeting of Wolfe Island Railway & Canal Co. to elect Directors.

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20 May 1853
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Geographic Coverage:
  • 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), 20 May 1853