May 21, 2023
Cover Photo: Ship Sinking – Photo Credit – The Joyce Hayward Collection
September 1, 1921 was a clear moonless night as Captain Thomas Van Dusen manned the helm of the OLIVER MOWAT as she headed from Picton, Ontario to Oswego, New York. As midnight approached out of the east the lights of a large steamer appeared to Captain Van Dusen heading directly towards his ship. Using an oil lantern, he attempted to signal their position and warn the oncoming vessel away.
Onboard the Steamer KEYWEST the Captain was off duty and resting in his cabin, while the second mate was on the bridge recording the day’s events in the ship’s logbook. With calm winds on this quiet night, the lookout had left his post to light a fire in the galley to prepare a pot of coffee for the long night ahead.
At 10:57 pm, the fate of the OLIVER MOWAT was sealed as two thousand tons of steel struck her amidship driving a wall of water into her heart, sending the schooner to the bottom in just four minutes. The Captain made a heroic attempt to save his crew of five, but in the end he went down with his ship along with the first mate and cook. The remaining two sailors were pulled from the icy waters by the crew of the KEYWEST and survived to tell the tale.