Good Legends

Table of Contents

Title Page
Catching the Wave - A Wreck Rediscovered
Good Legends
The night of 29-30 April 1853.
Treasure Ship?
Table of Illustrations

Good legends have a way of growing in the telling. What better place to start with the legends of the steamer Ocean Wave than with the dean of Great Lakes storytellers, C.H.J. Snider.

"David Dulmage, South Bay farmer, was waked by the light through his bedroom window at 2:00 o'clock in the morning. He routed out his neighbours, and they rushed to Point Traverse, two miles away, through the frozen mud. They pushed off in a fish boat, and found a floating bonfire, wildly charging about, amid the screams of perishing passengers, till, having burned to the water's edge, it sank with a loud roar from its red hot boilers. ... On this last trip she was reported to be carrying the company's earnings for the season--this seems strange, with the season just beginning"in gold and silver, for deposit in Montreal. The legend, losing nothing in the telling, has prompted more than one hopeful in Prince Edward County to prospect for her wreck and try to recover the fire-blistered safe."1

Willis Metcalfe, one of the next generation of Prince Edward storytellers, delighted in adding rumour to legend. "It is said that the body of the purser of the Ocean Wave was found some weeks later on the shore of Lake Ontario near West Point, by a Mr. Hyatt. A large sum of money was found in his belt to be in good condition."2

The hull. Photo by Dan McKay. Courtesy of Northern Tech Diver.
Between them Snider and Metcalfe offered to the modern treasure-hunting fraternity an irresistible tale, full of sudden danger, dramatic rescue, death and treasure, mixed with the folklore of the local fishing community. A treasure ship hides in Lake Ontario, her gold and silver waiting to reward the salvagers who recover her safe. It lingers in the imagination when most of the other, more prosaic details of the history of the lakes have slipped away. The story has been told a variety of times, (indeed has become a variety of tales!); it is almost a thankless task to attempt to set the record straight.


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This article originally appeared in FreshWater. Underwater photography courtesy of Northern Tech Diver.