This Week in History



For the week of Monday October 5, 1998

October 5, 1884, a storm raged on Georgian Bay and the steamship Arabia foundered in open water. It is likely that its cargo of grain became wet, expanded and burst the seams of the hull. As it took on more and more water, the crew abandoned ship. Although the entire crew was saved, the Arabia sank slowly to the bottom. Today, the wreck lies 37 metres (120 feet) below the surface in Fathom Five National Marine Park, Ontario. Located at the tip of Ontario's Bruce Peninsula, these treacherous waters have claimed many ships, and today the remains of at least 21 steam and sail vessels lie within the boundaries of the national marine park.

Diver at Fathom Five

Diver at Fathom Five
© Parks Canada

The five Great Lakes make up the largest body of fresh water in the world. They have played an important role in Canada's shipping history. Fur traders were among the earliest people to use the lakes to transport large cargoes. In 1855, a railway connected Toronto to Collingwood on Georgian Bay, giving Toronto a gateway to the west and encouraging economic development on the upper lakes. From 1870 until the Canadian Pacific Railway was completed in 1886, lake shipping was the best way to transport food and manufactured goods west towards Manitoba. Nowadays, bulk cargoes dominate shipping on the Great Lakes, and link the centre of the continent to the markets of the world. One of the main bulk cargoes is grain -- the same commodity as the Arabia carried in 1884!

Hikers on Flowerpot Island

Hikers on Flowerpot Island
© Parks Canada / Philip Goldring

As transportation improved, the Great Lakes also became a popular tourist destination. In 1987, Fathom Five National Marine Park, with its unique ecological features, became Canada's first National Marine Conservation Area. Boasting 45 square miles (116 km²) of clear fresh water, underwater cliffs and caves, and over twenty shipwrecks, Fathom Five offers some of the best diving and snorkelling opportunities in Canada. Of course, you can also see the shipwrecks from the dry comfort of glass-bottomed boats or visit some of the 19 islands. The unique rock columns, trails and caves make Flowerpot Island the most famous. On the nearby mainland, visitors can explore Bruce Peninsula National Park, which features limestone cliffs, mixed forests, wetlands and tranquil beaches.

For information on Fathom Five National Marine Park, see the Parks Canada, Fathom Five Web Page.

For information on Bruce Peninsula National Park, see the Parks Canada, Bruce Peninsula Web Page.

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