The rocky coast of Nova Scotia has
long been claiming ships from the sea. From the 16th century up until
present times, ships have foundered in fierce North Atlantic storms, or
ran aground on fog-enshrouded shores, often with a great loss of life.
The S.S. Atlantic was one such ship. Owned by the White Star Line, she was
a 129m, 3390 ton, four masted steamship. The masts were fullyrigged for
sail as steam engines in that period was notoriously unreliable. During a
crossing from England to New York, the engineer reported to the captain
that the ship was running short on coal due to three days of bad weather.
Captain James A. Williamsset a course for Halifax and disaster. At about
3:00 AM on April 1, 1873, the Atlantic struck the western shore of Mosher
Island. The first large wave to hit her swept away all the boats on the
port side. As she heeled over to starboard, the list rendered the boats on
that side unusable as well. The quartermaster swam a line from the bow to
a large rock on the sore, by which 200 people managed to crawl across to
safety. By 5:30 AM the first boats had arrived on the scene. They managed
to save a handful of people that remained on board. Unfortunately, out of
more than 800 people, 547 lost their lives, including every woman and child
except one. It was one of the worst shipwrecks ever on the Nova Scotia
Diving the Atlantic
She now lies on a rocky slope from 10 ft down to a sandy bottom at 80 ft.
She is not recognizable as a ship anymore. 101 years of pounding surf
has taken care of that.. As I swam around exploring the scattered pieces
of wreckage, I couldn't help but think of the over 500 people who died
here. I tried to imagine what it must have been like for them, pulling
themselves across a thin rope over the pounding surf, or waiting for
rescue as the ship broke up under them. There are reminders everywhere.
My buddy found an ivory button in a chunk of encrustation. Another diver
found a spoon. I found many broken pieces of china: plates, bowls and
cups, some with the manufacturers stamp still on them. The boilers remain
at about 80 ft. They are interesting because unlike any boilers that I
have seen on Ontario wrecks, the top and side of one of them is rusted
away and you can see all the pipes that make up the inside of them.
Although she has been down for over 100 years, there are still many
artifacts and mysteries yet to be discovered.
Jared Rainault learned to dive in Kingston, Ontario, and spent
a couple years diving the beautiful, intact wrecks there. He now lives
in Halifax, Nova Scotia.