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The sinking of H.M.S. Schooner The Speedy

By Tara Lember/Archivist

On the evening of October 7, 1804, the HMS Schooner The Speedy left the port at York en route to Presqu’ile. 

The passengers aboard the ship were some of Toronto’s elite citizens and law makers. Combined with crew members, there were estimated to be more than 30 people aboard.  The following day, a fierce storm swept across Lake Ontario disabling the schooner, and the vessel was never seen again. 

It is assumed that the ship sank on October 8, 1804, after being hit with a large wave and possibly hitting a rock formation, just off shore from Presqu’ile Point.

The reason for the journey had a connection back to Oshawa. A man named John Sharp worked for the Farewell brothers from Oshawa at their trading post on Lake Scugog, and was murdered by a Chippewa tribe member on Washburn Island. 

The trial was to take place at the town of Newcastle and those aboard the ship were all involved with the trial in some shape or form. 

The Speedy’s only stop was at Port Oshawa because the Farewell brothers were to take part in the trial, but once they decided the vessel was over-crowded, they chose to find another means of transportation.

The Speedy never made it to its destination port. 

There were 39 people that perished in the disaster, which also eradicated the court and government of Upper Canada, as many officials were on board.

Ed Burtt, of Ocean Scan Systems and the HMS Speedy Heritage Foundation, discovered what he thinks is the crash site in 1989, in an area shipwreck hunters call “Sophiasburgh Triangle” and where many shipping vessels over the years have met their demise. 

The area has been proven to show extreme magnetic deviations that obstruct navigational readings. 

Many of Burtt’s claims have been disputed by other researchers, but that has not stopped him from pursuing this priceless piece of Upper Canada history. 

For more information about the H.M.S. Speedy visit the website for Ocean Scan Systems, or visit the Mariner’s Park and Museum in Picton Ontario.


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