The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Times (Orillia, ON), April 8, 1880

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The Waubuno Found

(From the Parry Sound North Star)

Many rumours having been in circulation for some time past as to finding of the ill fated steamer Waubuno which was wrecked in the Georgian Bay on the 22nd of November last, we with others determined if possible to ascertain their correctness or otherwise accordingly enquiries were made in every direction with this object in view. All Good Friday was spent by those who took the matter in hand, in prosecuting the enquiry and at last the conclusion was forced upon us that not one of the many rumours was true, unless perhaps the one reporting the finding of the steamer by an Indian living near Moon River. How to reach this Indian was the next question for consideration In this dilemmas Mr. Elias, the Indian Missionary, of parry Island, was consulted and the result was that Solomon Assence, an intelligent old Indian Chief, was despatched in search of the supposed finder . After long and tedious search Mr. Assence found his man and brought him into town on Monday afternoon. With the assistance of Mr. Elias, as interpreter, the fact was elicited from the Indian, whose name is David Pedonquot, that he had actually


and upon a searching examination he repeated the story, substantially as told at first. Arrangements were at once made with him to show where the hull lay, and everything prepared for an early start on Tuesday morning to the scene of the wreck.

On Tuesday morning the searching party, composed of Messrs A, Starkey, Chas. H. Davis, W. Ireland, jr, editor of the North Star, Frank B Dowell, jr., as teamster, with Mr. A. E. Sheldon on behalf of the Georgian Bay Transportation Company, Mr. Elias as interpreter for the party, and the Indian Pedonquot, assembled at the "Sequin House" Mr. F. Dowell's ponies being on hand, the party started out on the search.

The course was taken across the Bay to the South Channel, down this, to Five Mile bay, and after that the course from thee depended altogether upon the condition of the ice. The first few miles were passed without any incident worthy of note till the Indian village was reached. Here we were informed that the channel was quite open and not safe to travel even on foot. After a hurried consultation it was decided to make the venture all being determined to go by the shortest possible route, and risk having to leave the horses and make the remainder . Every person having come prepared for a two day's tip and a camp in the woods over night, if necessary, we pushed ahead. Mr. Starkey being the only one in the party acquainted with the windings of the South Channel, now became the pilot, and as we advanced the excitement of the trip increased. At every few hundred yards cracks and air holes could be seen and occasionally, large sheets of open water were passed in close proximity. The scenery all along the route is grand and impressive; huge bluffs here and there, beautiful little bays and nooks are passed, one after another in rapid succession, and islands abound on all sides. Frequently portages had to be made to shorten the distance, as well as to escape treacherous spots, but was not till we reached what is known as the "Indian Dusks" that our actual work commenced. Here the channel showed open water for at least a mile ahead, and at first sight it appeared impossible to cut a portage though the dense forest, and get the horses and sleigh over the rocks that line the shore. The only course seemed to be , to leave the team and make the remainder of the distance on foot, but upon examination it was determined to force through if possible. All went to work with a will, and after an hour's hard work the portage was effected. A clear passage to the Georgian Bay was at last presented to our view, and as we emerged from among the numerous islands the sight which was unfolded amply repaid for all our labour. The picture formed by the vast expanse of ice piled in places high up in ragged masses, with the Christian Islands, Giant's Tomb and Western Isles looming up in the distance, and the background formed by the hundreds of islands which line the shore, is a sight which, when once seen, will never be forgotten. From here we struck out towards the open water of the Georgian Bay, still under the pilotage of Mr. Starkey, the Indian, who had never made atrip down this channel before, seeming "mixed" as to his whereabouts. When we arrived to within a short distance of where the hulk of the wreckage came ashore last fall, the Indian seemed to recognise the locality and from here piloted us direct to the spot where the hull lay, thus making the finding of the Waubuno an accomplished fact.

The hull lies, keel up, in a small bay about three or four miles, a little south of east, of the islands where the most of the heavy wreckage was found, or in a direct line between the "Indian Docks" and the "Haystacks" about two miles north of the latter. She lies, as we said before, keel up, in about from ten to twelve feet of water. At her bow she is about three feet above the water and at the stern about one foot under the water, thus lying three-fourths of her entire length exposed. As she lies now she shows no signs of having come in contact with the rocks, but the starboard side, from the stern to within about twenty -five or thirty feet of her bow, is burst outwardly, though not completely detached, while on her port side not the slightest sign of any injury is visible.

About two hours were spent by the party in making a thorough examination, taking soundings, and testing the timbers of the hull, which were found to be perfectly sound. Of course owing to the position in which she lies, it was impossible to ascertain whether the machinery still remains in her or not, but the probability is that it has fallen out. Finding it impossible to do anything further, and having accomplished our purpose, we parted with our Indian guide and started on the return trip, reaching Parry Sound at about half past eight o'clock having met with no more serious accident than the breaking through the ice of one of the ponies, which was easily extricated. To Mr. Dowell's team of ponies is due the fact that the trip was so quickly and safely made, for had a heavier team been taken, we would undoubtedly have been compelled to have made much more of the distance on foot, but as it was we were enabled to drive the horses right up to where the wreck lies.


We perhaps never be known, but will doubtless remain a mystery; opinions very as much now as at the time the ill-fated steamer perished, carrying with her so many persons lives. It is possible however, that some additional light may be thrown on the disaster when the ice .. floated , right side up sustained by the air chambers formed by her false sides, to the rocks which protect the entrance of the bay in which she now lies, and then striking shallow ground, she rolled over like a huge log, her machinery falling through her damaged starboard side, thus giving her the appearance she now presents. Others again affirm that she did not strike a rock, but that the huge waves, catching her under the guards - where they say she was weak stripped her of her upper works, and left her at the mercy of the waves she finally rolled over, spilled her machinery and drifted into the bay, while a still smaller number say she capsized in the open water, and thus became wrecked. Which of these theories is correct it is simply impossible at the present time to say, but one thing is apparent, and that is that the captain was doing his best to run her into comparatively smooth water of the South Channel when the disaster overtook her. Which must have been swift and sudden, allowing no time in which the unfortunate people on board could make any attempt to escape.

Scarcely two persons can be found who agree entirely as to how the wreck occurred and to the precise way the hull drifted to where she now lies. One theory is that while hurrying before the fatal storm with hold partially full of water from the leak which reports say she sprung a trip or two before, her captain saw through the blinding snow storm the dim outline of rocks ahead immediately the order would be given "hard port" or "hard-a-Starboard" and the attempt made to bring her around but from a well known trick the Waubunohad, she probably hung in the trough of the sea, till drifting and drifting her keel somewhere about the stern or midship struck on some sunken outlying rock. The full force of wind and waves on her broadside would cause her to careen heavily to leeward, when her rotten upper works, deck cargo and living freight would hopelessly and helplessly shot from the sounder hull into the raging lake. Thence lightened of its load the hull probably rose, drifted over the outlying rocks and ultimately found a resting place in its present position...

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April 8, 1880
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Bill Hester
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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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Times (Orillia, ON), April 8, 1880