Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Shipwrecks, Collisions and Accidents in St. Lawrence/Great Lakes Waterway, 1848-1900
The Northern Mariner / Le marin du nord (St. John's, NL), Apr 1996, p. 43-66
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Shipwrecks, Collisions and Accidents in St. Lawrence/Great Lakes Waterway, 1848-1900

There is quite a literature about shipwrecks at sea or in the confined waters of gulfs, deltas or rivers. Indeed, wrecks have long exerted a fascination because of their spectacular results, often involving losses of vessels and lives and leaving as mute testimony smashed ships, floating debris or empty lifeboats. In many cases, shipwrecks are associated with major natural disturbances, such as gales, hurricanes, snow storms, intense fog or strong currents; sometimes, they are related to dangers inherent in particular stretches of water. But the existence of a wreck is not necessarily indicative of the hazardousness of navigation, since there are numerous other reasons for accidents, including errors of judgement, displacement of cargo and faulty equipment. A n y analysis of the reason for shipwrecks must do more than simply plot and narrate the most famous.1 In this essay I will analyze the patterns and causes of wrecks in the Canadian waters of the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River and Gulf.2 A number of conclusions arise from the study, but perhaps the most important is the improved safety associated with the transition from wind to steam and wood to steel.