Wednesday, May 09, 2007

 

Old barge target of beach dig; Vessel to be moved away from shipwreck

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The Sun Times
By Sandy Lindsay
May 09, 2007

Volunteers have returned to what has become an annual archeological dig on the beach in Southampton.

The first dig began when ribs of a vessel began protruding through the sand. Ken Cassavoy, a marine archeologist who has worked on shipwrecks around the world and who now lives in Southampton, was quickly acknowledged as the man to head up what would become a major archeological dig.

Although the name of the ship was not known that first summer, last year's work proved that it was a U.S. ship, the Hunter.

Artifacts such as military buttons and a restored cannon that is now housed at the Bruce County Museum and Cultural Centre, along with archival records uncovered by historian Patrick Folkes, confirmed the ship's identity.
The ship, which had been involved in the war of 1812, was to be an unprecedented find on the Great Lakes.

"What we are attempting to do right now is uncover a barge that was also found nestled up against the Hunter," Cassavoy said. "Although we've seen pictures of this type of barge, we have never seen an actual one from that period in history. It will be useful to get a better knowledge of its simple detail because it really was the 'workhorse' of the time. Our primary goal now is to uncover it and then protect it by reburying it in the same environment but further from the lake. This will then open up the side of the Hunter that we were unable to excavate at the earlier digs."

The barge project is being completed by local volunteers and must be completed within the next two and a half weeks. A giant crane will come in on May 26 to carefully lift the barge out.

"We don't expect to find any artifacts of importance, but if we do, they go to Ottawa for examination and confirmation," Cassavoy said. The General Hunter was built in Amherstburg, south of Windsor, and launched in 1806. It saw action in the War of 1812 as a Royal Navy warship before being lost to the Americans in the Battle of Lake Erie in 1813. It was a U.S. ship when it was wrecked off the shore of Southampton.

"We are looking at the possibility of this becoming an International effort," said Cassavoy. "We would like to recover the Hunter, but that takes a huge amount of money, far more than a municipality could possibly afford and the Canadian government does little in the way of providing funding for this type of thing. So, perhaps, it could become a joint effort between two countries. Who knows what will happen?"


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