OTTAWA

When lost she was loaded with fine old-county manufactured goods (silks, gloves, etc.) for the Christmas.

The Ottawa, Dixon master, left Halifax at 1 p.m., on October 31, 1891 and fought a sou’west gale and heavy head winds all the way down the coast. The night came on dark with drizzling rain but Seal Island light was in sight for an hour before the ship struck Blonde Rock at 5 a.m. Sunday. The tide was almost low and with the flood came increasing seas which swung the ship around, so that her listing starboard was broadside to them. Each sea then swept her fore and aft. The rock had pierced her engine compartment and she filled with the rising tide, but her bow remained above water. The port lifeboat was launched with four men, and the stewardess, Mrs. Annie Lindsay (the only woman on board). But a sea parted the painter and another soon broke over the boat, turning it bottom up. One man climbed on to the keel; the mate joined him and they clung there while the boat was carried by the tide and seas to-wards Seal Island- 5 miles or so away. As it went through the surf near shore the boat was righted and the two men climbed inside. They found the other two men still alive (since air enough had remained under the boat to keep them from suffocating) but the stewardess had died from cold and exhaustion. Fishermen on Seal Island watched the boat drifting nearer and nearer shore and finally saw it washed into the breakers; after much difficulty and danger, they succeeded in bringing it to land.

The port jolly boat fared better; the pilot and four men in her reached Seal Island safely. Those left on the steamer poured oil over the seas and then launched a third boat. The Captain was the last to leave the ship and he hung perilously over the side for ten minutes before the others could work the boat back in near enough for him to jump. These men, too, reached Seal Island, but only after seven hours’ rowing which left them drenched and exhausted. The remains of the stewardess were buried on the island. The steamer became a complete wreck. In the Seal Island home of Mrs. Hamilton, daughter of the lightkeeper at that time, I saw the heavy table from the captain’s mess, but there seems to be comparatively few “wracking yarns” concerning the Ottawa.

The Wreckwood Chair by Evelyn Richardson

Available for purchase at the Cape Sable Historical Society

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