Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Wreck of the ASIA: Schooner Days MCCLXVIII-h (1268-h)
Toronto Telegram (Toronto, ON), 28 Apr 1956
Full Text
Wreck of the ASIA
Schooner Days MCCLXVIII-h (1268-h)

by C. H. J. Snider

Passing Hails

"Dear Schooner Days—I wonder if you could give me some information on a boat, the Asia, that sank in the Georgian Bay I think over 70 years ago. My grandfather, Patrick Sweeney and another man were to have sailed on her but decided at the last minute to get a bottle of liquor to take into camp with them, and while they were making their purchase the boat sailed without them. There was a song written about it, The Wreck of the Asia. I wonder if this is available? In the song it tells of one hundred souls on board including twenty-four shantymen and William Christie and his bride. Would appreciate any information you could give." Signed Gary Lamb, 386 Peter st. n. Orillia. Ont.

And Capt. E. R. Jordan, 49 Marlborough ave. Toronto, hails with a stamp "Can you give me any information on the vessel Asia that was lost either on Lake Huron, North Channel or Georgian Bay? Was she steam or Sail? I believe sometime at the turn of the century."

So many other calls have come about the Asia that Schooner Day here summarized what he wrote about her in No. CCCXXXVIII (338) and others of this series.

A three masted schooner named Asia by Alexander Muir & Brothers in their yard at Port Dalhousie in 1864, intended for export with timber cargo, as the Muirs had done with their Alexander, Advance, Acorn and Niagara earlier. She was therefore deep in the hold, 13 feet two feet deeper than average: of usual Welland Canal dimensions otherwise, 137 feet long 23 ft. 8 beam, 376 tons register. Lake trade being more profitable, she was not sent overseas, but had troubles enough at home.

An old marine "protest" tells how with Archibald Muir as master she left Chicago, Oct. 14th 1865 with 23,000 bushels of corn and 50 barrels of pork.

Later on she struck in Echo Bay on the Upper Lakes with all sails set, in a dense fog. The crew hastily abandoned ship for rocks had gone through her bottom. To their amazement she floated off and followed them all sails still set. Before they could regain her she disappeared, as amazingly till not even the flies at her mastheads showed. She had sunk in 18 fathoms of water.

THIS, however, was not the Asia for which inquiries are made. The victim of the Georgian Bay tragedy which survives in a lake song -- of which we would very much like to have the words -- was the propeller Asia a steamer not a schooner, but of about the same tonnage. She was built at St. Catharines in 1874, and carried passenger and freight between Windsor, Ont., and Duluth, Lake Superior, calling at way ports in connection with the Grand Trunk, Great Western and Canada Southern railways. She was lost in the great storm of Sept. 14 1882, near Bustard Islands in the Georgian Bay, and all on board perished but two.

It was a disaster as devastating at the time as the Titanic was in ours, when this bluff bowed wall-sided wooden steamer spewed crew, passengers, cargo, lifebelts, horses and lifeboats into the ranging waters. After lying over for weather some hours she had left Collingwood for Meaford, Owen Sound and Sault Ste. Marie, in a lull in a prolonged gale.

When she pushed out the gale renewed and the sea was worse than ever. Off the Bustards came the climax. Freight, horses and passengers were being tossed about between decks, the pumps could not keep the water from the engine room. The crew of twenty-four threw overboard salt barrels and other freight and managed to launch three lifeboats amid the screaming, snorting, whinnying of panicked horses as the waves of the bay washed over them at their halters.

One boat did float. In it were two young people, a school teacher named D. A. Tinkus and a Miss Morrison. They drifted and were picked up the following day; by Indians, we believe. Miss Morrison died in 1937. No one knew how many passengers were on board. At least 80 probably more.

Schooner Days heard the song The Wreck of the Asia as a boy and would be obliged to all reader who can supply a copy of the words.

Snider, C. H. J.
Media Type
Item Type
Date of Publication
28 Apr 1956
Language of Item
Geographic Coverage
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 45.90008 Longitude: -80.96643
Richard Palmer
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Copyright Statement
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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Wreck of the ASIA: Schooner Days MCCLXVIII-h (1268-h)