South Bay preserves mariners' memories
"Too much of Canada's past and too many of our historical relics have been destroyed by neglect and disregard." This is the message that greets visitors to the Mariners Memorial Park at South Bay, ten miles from Picton in South Marysburgh Township. Prince Edward County has a most-distinguished and interesting marine history and in order to preserve some of the physical evidence of marine activity, the museum park was created as a Centennial project of South Marysburgh Township.
False Duck and Main Duck islands stretch into Lake Ontario from Point Traverse and form part of a chain of islands that was used as an ancient canoe route by Indians and by voyageurs. The area with its treacherous shoals and bars is the graveyard of many ships, including great schooners which once travelled the inland waterways of Lake Ontario.
An enormous wooden stocked anchor is one of the exhibits at the Mariners Park. It measures 10 feet 7 and a half inches long and weighs 1,770 pounds. The anchor came from the three-masted schooner City of Sheboygan which sank off Amherst Island, Sunday, SepL 26, 1915. The wreck was located by three scuba divers Lloyd Shales, Miss Barbara Carson and Lloyd Birdwhistle of Kingston in 95 feet of water in 1963, notes Willis Metcalfe – author of Canvas and Steam on Quinte Waters.
The anchor was raised from its watery grave by a detachment of scuba divers from HMCS Cataraqui, Kingston, under the command of Commander D. M. Chown, RCNR.
Two other rudders are on display. The steel rudder from the S.S. Lamonde, which once operated between Picton and Deseronto and a giant wooden rudder from the steamer Banshee which was wrecked off Point Traverse in 1861. The Banshee went down with her cargo of wheat, flour and 300 kgs of butter. John Nagle, a printer on board drowned, but 17 others were saved. This rudder was donated on behalf of the Quinte Aqua Divers of Belleville in 1967.
A wooden mast, possibly 100 years old, came from an unknown schooner lost in Lake Ontario. The 90-foot mast was recovered by lands and forests personnel while they were trawling. This was donated by the Prince Edward Historical Society.
The Mariners Memorial Park is off the beaten track and might well he missed by many visitors to Prince Edward County. It is well worth a visit to learn a little of the heritage of the sea and of the great ships that served Canada in the dim distant past.