THE SEARCH FOR H.M.S. SPEEDY
SIDE SCAN IMAGE OF THE AREA.
Shows the anchor
drag mark still visible
MARINE NAVIGATION CHART SHOWING THE "DEVIL'S
The horse head.
From: The Intelligencer, by Tom Gavey, Staff Reporter
A Bellville diving team has made az discovery
"that could be biggest underwater find historically ever in Canada".
Ed Burtt of Ocean Scan Systems says he believes a shipwreck discovered off Presqu'ile Provincial Park near Brighton is the 200 yr. old H.M.S. Speedy.
"This is like finding a Spanish Galleon loaded with gold in your own back yard," says Burtt.
Ocean Scan divers were doing research work last August when they 'hit' what they suspect is the 80 foot schooner which sank in a violent storm in 1804.
Burtt says under water water films shows what they suspect is a clay pipe, glasses and a bell from the wreck. A stylized "S" has been isolated and what divers believe is a section of a 'P'.
"We know we have a very old wreck.
It's definitely Pre 1816 based on what we've seen," says chief diver Terry
The exact location of the wreck is a closely guarded secret and Burtt says "an unprecedented joint security action" will protect the site until research begins.
Project archeologist Ken Cassavoy says "if this proves to be the Speedy it will be the most significant find in the Great Lakes in recent years.
The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, the Ontario Provincial Police, the Ontario Heritage Foundation and Transport Canada are all combining efforts with the newly formed H.M.S. Speedy Marine Heritage Foundation to protect the site. The foundation includes Ed Burtt, Terry Coons, Ken Cassavoy, Gary Mac Donald and Bill Procter, all of Belleville.
Burtt says the then solicitor general of Upper Canada, a member of the Lower House of the Assembly, a district magistrate and a native prisoner charged with murder were among the lost souls of the Speedy.
"It would be like losing the Premier and, half of his cabinet in one fell swoop today," says Burtt.
FROM: THE TRENTONIAN
by Derek Baldwin
Shipwreck hunter Ed Burtt believes he's found Canada's oldest and most important in-land historical marine find.
Years of frustration trying to locate
the actual hull of the ill-fated Upper Canada schooner H.M.S. Speedy may
Seven years after he first discovered a debris field of Upper Canada historical artifacts off Presqu'ile, shipwreck hunter Ed Burtt of Belleville believes he has found the mother lode.
In a recent interview, he said photo evidence taken from sonar equipment aboard Burtt's H.M.S. Speedy Foundation expedition vessel suggests the search for Canada's "oldest and most important in-land historical marine find" is drawing to a close.
It's all down there, in and around the hull.
And the stakes are tantalizing six copies of priceless handwritten Upper Canada Constitutions, rare cannons, historical papers owned by some of the most prominent members of the fledgling colony, jewelry and personal effects and a ship built using methods by which very little is known today.
The historical items awaiting recovery from the bottom offer an unparalleled window back in time that boggles the mind, said Burtt, who was licensed by the Ontario government in 1991 to exclusively protect and identify the site for recovery and archaeological preservation.
The preliminary evidence is clear.
Using almost $1 million in sophisticated underwater electronic equipment, side scan sonar images captured by Burtt show the unmistakable outline of a hull, roughly 20 metres (60 feet) long.
His Majesty's Ship Speedy was the same length, minus the 20 foot long bowsprit which fastened the rigging to the front end of the wooden catch rigger vessel, which sank in a fierce storm Oct. 8, 1804 en route to Presqu'ile from York (Toronto).
"We still have to dive it this spring (May) as soon as we can get in the water but yes, we believe it is probably the hull of the Speedy," said Burtt. "It's been a long and arduous search to find the actual hull because we were so close seven years ago when we found the debris field. We're very excited and we hope to have absolute confirmation very soon."
The lack of confirmation since H.M.S. Speedy was splashed across newspapers and television in 1991 has led many skeptics to dismiss Burtt's claims.
But Burtt said identifying and recovering
a ship can take many years.
For example, what Burtt and archaeological members of H.M.S. Speedy Foundation though was the hull after discovering the debris field, wasn't, said Burtt. It was only a part of the decking.
Nearby, a debris field was strewn with an old clay pipe of the era, spectacles, a flintlock pistol and possibly, the Speedy's ship bell with the markings of a large "S" and a smaller "p".
But for years, the actual ship eluded them.
Part of the problem of diving the
areas is due to what's dubbed the "Sophiasburgh Triangle", a zone steeped
in myth and legend since the 1700s for swallowing ships whole. As many
as 100 ships sank here off Presqu'ile.
The deadly triangle that consumed the Speedy, however, is based on very real and extremely fluctuating magnetic disturbances making it extremely difficult to "pinpoint" anything. Those same magnetic disturbances may have affected the Speedy's navigational abilities.
Once Burtt used Global Positioning Satellite to accurately nail down co-ordinated for return visits, the search for the hull began. They started by following an imaginary line southeast or what they believed was the path of a northwestern gale force wind which struck the night Speedy tried to enter the area.
But what Burtt didn't find out until much later through archives was that a northeastern wind suddenly swamped the Speedy, changing its course as it tried to tack its way to far shore and back again into Presqu'ile Bay where an emergency bonfire on shore beckoned the schooner to safety.
"We zigged east when we should have
zigged west in our search for years. We've been looking in the wrong direction
for a long time," said Burtt. "Then we came across the very clear shape
of the hull from side scan (sonar)."
Closer inspection of the side scan sonar images reveals "very detailed ribs from the hull" jutting up out of the sand, a deceiving mound when viewed by submersible cameras. The secret is that the sonar can penetrate sand and zebra mussels where the eye can't.
The sonar also shows the deep anchor lines carved out of the lake bottom, leading to a ledge where Burtt believes the dragging anchors caught, ripping the chains out of the hull as the wind pushed the Speedy along at a terrifying clip.
Once the anchor lines were ripped
from the ship, large holes would have allowed water to pour in, dooming
all aboard to an icy demise in the lake waters swirling in blowing winds
The hull lies 60 or 70 feet beyond the ledge and the fact that chains lie at the crest of the ledge, may support his theory.
The anchors were thrown overboard much earlier, Burtt believes, when the ship rammed into what to was referred to as the Devil's Horseblock, a pinnacle of rock rising 30 metres (100 feet) from the lake bottom much like unusual rock formations along Lakes Superior. It was about 12 metres (40 feet) wide.
The flat-top of the pinnacle rested only 20 centimetres or eight inches under the water. The pinnacle was documented in May, 1804 by H.M.S. Lady Mary, whose crew stood on the pinnacle almost six kilometres off shore.
Shortly after Speedy disappeared, search vessels scouring Presqu'ile waters for survivors recorded the horseblock as also missing, said Burtt. More than 20 died, including the province's first solicitor general, Robert Isaac Dey Gray. Burtt believes Speedy captain Lt. Thomas Paxton tried to avoid the pinnacle using compass readings, because he couldn't navigate using the night stars whilst in the black eye of a blinding snowstorm.
Compass deviations placed him directly in the path of the horseblock, said Burtt. The collision of a 200-ton-plus schooner with a massive rock formation would have been violent, especially in very rough seas.
"When Speedy collided with the horseblock it knocked everything on the ship ajar, throwing the anchors overboard. The masts as well snapped and were sent over the side."
To support his theory, Burtt said he has already located two masts resting at the bottom of the former location of the horseblock's recorded spot, although he can't absolutely identify them as Speedy's until they can be raised to the surface.
"We're just slowly putting the pieces together and it's finally fitting very nicely," said Burtt.
The bell of the Speedy
Final resting place of the remaining hull of the Speedy. The deck is gone.
Magnetic field around the Horseblock irregularily deviates compass readings.
Side scan of the final resting place of the Speedy.
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