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Shipwrecks of McNabs Island to be discussed at Wednesday meeting

Dan Conlin will be giving a presentation when the Friends of McNabs Island Society holds their annual general meeting this week
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(Photo courtesy of Friends of McNabs Island Society/Twitter)

Low tide around McNabs Island reveals the skeletons of several ships embedded in the ocean floor.

Curator at the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21, Dan Conlin, will be giving a presentation on the many shipwrecks that have taken place at the mouth of the Halifax Harbour when the Friends of McNabs Island Society holds their annual general meeting this week.

"The last time I did this study about 10 years ago, I had 30 wrecks, now it's about 40. Every time I look at it, I discover new incidents of shipwrecks or new wrecks that are on the bottom and I didn't know they were there," Conlin said. "During this talk, I'll be showing an amazing aerial photograph taken by the Lighthouse Preservation Society that shows Wreck Cove at McNabs, and in the single photograph you can see 8 underwater shipwrecks."

"I think Wreck Cove must rival Sable Island as having one of the greatest concentration of shipwrecks in all of Nova Scotia."

The cove is on the east side of the island off Drakes Gut, the narrow waterway separating McNabs from Lawlor Island.

There's a reason so many sunken ships can be found there.

Conlin said the Dartmouth side of the island was a favourite place to get rid of old vessels in the dead of night.

"McNabs, for many years, was on the edge of the National Harbour Board boundary line," he explained. "Inside the harbour there were strict rules about sinking a ship. Outside the boundary line along McNabs, there weren't many rules, so it was a place where many old tugboats were taken to die."

Other sunken ships around the island met with a more tragic end.

"HMS Tribune in 1797 ran aground, ripped the bottom out and sank; 250 people died because of running into Thrumcap Shoal near McNabs," Conlin said. "And at the tip of McNabs, a place called Ives Point, it gets very narrow there and there have been many collisions, some of them very tragic, with 10 people dying for example with the Gertrude de Costa in 1950."

He said one wreck resulted in onions floating up and down the island when a ship carrying the vegetables sank in 1824.

Those who want to know more about the shipwrecks of McNabs Island can show up to the Small Craft Gallery of the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic at 6:45 p.m. on Wednesday.



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Meghan Groff

About the Author: Meghan Groff

Born in Michigan, raised in Ontario, schooled in Indiana and lives in Nova Scotia; Meghan is the community editor for HalifaxToday.ca.
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