Tuesday, March 11, 2008

 

Divers to probe shipwreck's secrets

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The Gazette
By Ken Meaney
March 11, 2008


A team of divers bolstered by an underwater robot will head to an area off Cape Breton this spring to hunt for the wreck of the ferry Patrick Morris, which sank in heavy seas in 1970 while trying to reach another ship in distress.

Originally called the New Grand Haven, the Morris was built in Quebec in 1945, and operated between Florida and Cuba until the revolution there in 1959, said diver Terry Dwyer, who will lead the expedition to find the railcar ferry in April.

When it was bought by the Canadian government, it was renamed in honour of a 19th century Newfoundland politician named Patrick Morris, Dwyer said, and put on the run between Cape Breton and Newfoundland.

The 140-metre vessel sank during a failed rescue attempt for another ship in distress in 1970 with the loss of four lives, including the captain, Newfoundlander Roland Penney, who remained on board the sinking ship with three other officers as the crew got away in a lifeboats.

His last, prophetic words: "Boys, I think you'd better get that boat out as fast as you can. You haven't much time."

Penney was right. The Morris went under in 30 minutes or so.

The other ship, a wood fishing boat called the Enterprise, also was lost with its crew of eight. The Morris met her end trying to retrieve a body from the Enterprise, Dwyer said.

Dwyer's interest in the Morris, which he hopes to turn into a documentary, stems from a lifelong love of wreck diving. Nova Scotia and Newfoundland are a paradise for divers - Nova Scotia alone is home to over 10,000 shipwrecks.


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