The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Examiner (Barrie, ON), May 25, 1882

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Loss of the Manitoulin


Scarcely has navigation opened when we are called upon to chronicle loss of one of the finest propellers that ever steamed out of Collingwood harbour, the pride alike of her unfortunate owners and crew. Distressing the loss itself is it is accompanied by a frightful loss of human life. On Friday morning our citizens were startled when, on the arrival of the City of Owen Sound. It was learned that the Manitoulin had burned to the water's edge. When the Owen Sound was between Killarney and Manitowaning bay a small boat was seen coming out of the fog which had settled over the water. It was manned by a number of Indians and one white man, who turned out to be Andrew Johnston, mate of the Manitoulin. He reported that when his boat was about four miles from Manitowaning bay it was discovered to be on fire, supposed to have been caused by the explosion of a lamp in the after engine-room. A rush was at once made for the life-boats, one of which was filled; while being lowered the tackle broke and the occupants of the boat were thrown into the water. He (the mate) had rowed out for assistance. The Owen Sound took him to Killarney and brought the news to Collingwood


The following is probably as correct a statement of facts of the case as can be obtained. The brave man who told the story of the heart rendering disaster had his right hand severely burned his hair scorched, and his ears blistered, and his general appearance told that he had fought a gallant and desperate battle. He said;-"it was between 12 and 1 o'clock. The second engineer had had his dinner , and came down to relieve me. I went to my room, washed myself, and was putting on my coat to go to dinner when the second engineer came running in and told me the boat was on fire. I went outside, and rushed to the pony engine to start it. At that time the mate and second engineer were endeavouring to get the hose down. I was four feet lower than them and not so much exposed to the flame which with the smoke, was creeping overhead. I had the overflow of the pony open for some time, and before shutting it off to force the water through the hose I called to the mate and second engineer to hurry as much as they could. I didn't receive any answer, and I crawled up and found there was no one there. I supposed the flames drove them off. I took hold of the hose and felt along it for the nozzle, but found there was no on. I then dropped the hose and went to the side of the gangway, about six feet from the engine. I noticed people in the water already , particularly a man and a woman and child. I saw the captain had the boat pointed for shore at this time, and the question , of course, arose in my mind whether she would reach shore. Thinking of this I ran back to the engine, felt for the lever of the throttle, and pulled it open. I could not open it at all the way , because it was set with a thumb-screw, which tightened up as the lever came out. I ran back to the gangway, pulled off my boots and crawled along the wale until I came to a fender, when I was assisted to the promenade deck by Messrs Spencer and Jas Miller. Then I noticed that the first mate was trying to lower the starboard boat, and as he was unable to swing her clear, I took hold of the after-fall and helped the mate to swing the boat clear of the chalks that she sat in The mate told me not to let the boat strike the water. I followed the boat down the side to keep her off the promenade rail and shoved her off until my end of her was about four feet from the water. I was standing on the main wale at the time, having my arm around a fender and the line in my disengaged hand. The immense crowd jumping into the boat either carried away the forward tackle or the davit, when I immediately let go the after tackle, as the boat turned a complete somersault and the line nearly swept me off. I clung to the side until the boat grounded, when the jar shook me off. I fell into the water and waded to shore. When I was hanging over the side I saw people continually passing under me in the water. I specially noticed a man swimming outwards after a woman who had drifted behind. The couple were saved. I noticed a man clinging to the side who had his hand and arm in the fire. On landing after getting all those who remained off the boat we worked till the following morning to extinguish the flames. There were probably 20 persons lost.

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May 25, 1882
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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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Examiner (Barrie, ON), May 25, 1882