The Oliver Mowat Expedition
It is my honour to be selected as a 2023 Royal Canadian Geographical Society Expedition Grantee.
My expedition Team Members are Jill Heinerth and Charlotte Pilon-McCullough.
This summer I will be leading a team to explore the three-masted schooner, the OLIVER MOWAT, in the waters of Prince Edward County region of eastern Ontario. She represents a time capsule of history preserved below the surface in Canada’s most historically significant region of shipbuilding and maritime commerce.
The Oliver Mowat was considered the crown jewel of the Millhaven shipyards when launched in 1873. No expense was spared in her construction since she was to showcase the design and building skills of the Millhaven shipwrights who were competing with the mighty Portsmouth yards just miles away. Named after Sir Oliver Mowat, one of the Fathers of Confederation her career would span 48 years until her collision in 1921 with the steamer Keywest. At that time there were only 400 sailing ships left registered on the Great Lakes, so she represents the last of the three-masted schooner era.
Since her loss in 1921, she has been considered the holy grail for shipwreck hunters of the region. Her location was discovered in 2004 by Barbara Carson, Tim Legate, Spencer Shoniker and the Late Rick Neilson but kept secret to protect the numerous artifacts ranging from twin anchors at the bow to the ship’s wheel aft. On deck, everything from oil lanterns to crockery could be seen.
As the first expedition to the shipwreck since its initial discovery, this survey work is very important; when we document a shipwreck, it gives us a snapshot in time and an inventory of the significant assets.
Operating under a Marine Archaeology License from the Ministry of Citizenship and Multiculturalism and with the support of the Ontario Marine Heritage Committee, the first objective will be to capture a photographic record of the site for use in an expedition film and articles. The second objective will be image acquisition to produce a 3D Photogrammetry Model that will be created for outreach and educational support.
The combination of these objectives will provide us a good understanding of the condition of the site and will assist in protecting and promoting Canada’s extraordinary marine heritage for generations to come.