Pelee Island, Shipwrecks and Rescue

Pelee Island, Shipwrecks and Rescue by Ron Tiessen was a short booklet that documented the shipping hazards around Pelee Island and the rescue attempts (both successful and not) near the island. Since Lake Erie is so shallow–merely thirty feet at its western basin–sunken ships would penetrate the water surface. Thus:

“The cumulative effect of the number of wrecks on the bottom of the lake, and particularly on passage routes, constructed an additional hazard. Often the water was so shallow that sunken vessels would bring down additional casualties.”

And sure enough as Tiessen recounted the story of another wreck, it turned out that it foundered because it ran through another vessel’s sunken debris.

Tiessen wrote chapters entitled “Hazards” and “Seven Wrecks and Rescue Responses” yet the information blended between them and I felt the book–at only 32 pages–could have been written without those particular chapter divisions. Photos and sketches were included of ships and crew.

The Life Saving Service on the Great Lakes was established in 1882 with a station on Pelee Island built in 1887. Merely days after the station went into service, a newspaper report stated:

“The life saving station at the south end is now completed, with S. Mahoney as Captain. And a curious confirmation of its necessity was shown within a few days of its completion. For within three miles of the station and in full view of it, the schooners Rosebud and Frank Morris were wrecked on Fishing Point Bar, proving total losses. And the Daniel G. Foot, with 700 tons of coal on board, ran on the East Side of the same shoal in the fog.”

Tiessen backed up his research with 142 endnotes, which included the article from the Amherstburg Echo, above, dated December 23, 1887.

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