The steamer ASIA sank in a storm off Byng Inlet on Georgian Bay September 14, 1882. Over 100 people lost their lives with only two people, a man and a woman, rescued. ASIA was built in St. Catharines, Ontario, in 1873, and was bound from Collingwood, Ontario, to the French River and Canadian Sault.
LOST ON THE LAKES
A DREADFUL DISASTER.
Special Telegram To The Inter Ocean.
Collingwood, Ont., Sept. 17. — The following report has just reached here by the hand of Captain John Davis, of the tug MINNEHAHA, sent from Parry Sound by Mr. J.C. Miller, which gives the details of the loss of the steamer ASIA, of the Great Northern Transit Line, which left here Wednesday evening last for the French River and Sault Ste. Marie:
” Parry Sound, Sept. 17. — Captain A. McGregor reached here yesteday by tug from Owen Sound, and reports passing the wreck of a steamer off the Limestone Island, he picked up and brought with him a trunk, a door, and a pillow-slip marked ‘Steamer ASIA.’ About 10 o’clock this afternoon an Indian boat reached here from Point Au Barrie, about thirty miles distant, bringing Mr. D.A. Tinkiss, of Manitowaning, and Miss Christy Morrison, from near Owen Sound, supposed to be the only twp survivors of the il-fated steamer. Mr. Tinkiss made the following statement:
THE SURVIVOR’S STORY.
” I went aboard the ASIA at Owen Sound about midnight on Wednesday, in company with J.H. Tinkiss and H.B. Gallagher, both of Manitowaning. The steamer was crowded, all the state rooms being full and many passengers lying on the sofas and cabin floors. All went well until about 11 o’clock Thursday morning, when a storm struck the steamer. I was in my berth at the time. My Uncle, J.H. Tinkiss, jumped up and said the boat was doomed. Dishes and chairs were flying in every direction. We left the cabin and found difficulty in getting on deck, the boat was rolling so heavily. I got a life-preserver and put it on. The boat went into the trough of the sea and would not obey her helm. She rolled heavily for about twenty minutes, when she was struck by a heavy sea and foundered.
SHE WENT DOWN
with her engines working, about 11:30 o’clock. The ASIA was making for French River, and had men, horses, and lumberman’s supplies for the shanties there. I saw three boats lowered. I was in the first boat. About eight were with me at first, but more got in, till the boat was overloaded, and turned over twice. Parties were hanging on to my life-preserver, which got displaced. I threw it off, then left the boat and swam to the captain’s boat, which was near by, and asked Mr. John McDougall, the purser, to help me in. He said it was but little use, but gave me his hand. When I got in there were
in the captain’s boat, and by that time there was a large number in and clinging to the boat I had left. I know nothing of the third boat. Our boat rolled over, and I remember missing poor John McDougall a few minutes after he helped me in. Pepole were hanging on to the spars and other parts of the wreckage. Our boat was full of water and the sea was constantly breaking over us. One of the first to die was the cabin-boy. he was dying and being supported by one of the men when a wave washed him overboard. Next to go was a boat-hand. He was near the gunwale and jumped out. I could see him
PADDLING AROUND IN THE WATER
for nearly a hundred yards. Our numbers were now reduced to seven, five of whom died before reaching the beach. Captain savage was the last to die in my arms about midnight. On Thursday Mr. John Little, of Sault Ste. Marie, the mate McDonald, and two others, names unknown, died. The boat finally stranded near Point au Barrie about daylight Friday, with Miss Morrison and myself the only two survivors. I put the bodies out on the beach and pried the boat off with an oar, but did not bail it out. Miss Morrison and I went down the beach to a derrick, about one and a half miles distant, and laid on the beach all the night. About 8 o’clock Saturday morning an Indian came along, and I engaged him to
BRING US TO PARRY SOUND.
He would not bring the bodies.’
“The steamer NORTHERN BELLE, of the same line, which reached here this morning, has been furnished with ice, etc., and has left for the bodies. Miss Morrison and Mr. Tinkiss are being well cared for here, and Dr. Potts thinks neither will suffer materially from their long exposure. There were probably about 100 on board the ASIA.”
The J.W. Hall Great Lakes Marine Scrapbook, September, 1882
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SHE SAILED WITHOUT A LICENSE
Partial List Of Passengers.
A Collingwood dispatch gives the following list of those known to have been on board the ill-fared propeller ASIA, which foundered on Georgian Bay Thursday forenoon:
Wm. Christie and wife, just married, Collingwood.
A.M. Clinton. B. Morey. Mr. & Mrs. W.H. Wood, Cincinatti.
A. Browse. Mr. Shipp. Mr. Duncan and son, Hamilton.
J. Martin, Collingwood.
A man named Kerr and family, Linne House, Ontario.
W.R. Gallagher, Manitomanny.
J.H. Tinkiss, Manitowomanny.
Mr. McNabb and Mrs Hanbury, of Owen Sound.
Mrs. Sproudt, of Cookstown.
There were also about 30 lumbermen on board bound for the lumber camps up the French River and at other points.
A Toronto dispatch says: The Government Inspector here states that the ill-fated Steamer ASIA was running without a license, having been refused one on account of carrying an insufficient number of life boats and life preserver.
The J.W. Hall Great Lakes Marine Scrapbook, September, 1882
THE DEATH ROLL.
[ part missing] These he took from the raft at Port Hope, and were named A.D. McDonnell, foreman, Orillia; D. Chisholm, Parry Sound; Isaac Lecarte, Stayner; Joseph Despatries, Coteau; Wm. Heavenor, Orillia; Hugh Mcneil Scott and Joseph Quinn, of England, both just out a few weeks; Dan and Rory McDonald, rama; Betham, Rama; Robert Marshall, of Port Hope; and Murphy, of Orillia. Most of these men were old hands, and several married. A.D. Macdonnell and Isaac Lecarte were widowers. As the propeller ASIA was about moving off Joseph Despatries handed Mr. Macdougall $160, and asked him to place it to his credit. The amount will probably be handed over to deseased’s friends Besides these men, there arrived from the vicinity of Arthabaska, Que., a number of Frenchmen. Mr. Macdougall had only time to transfer them from the express train to the boat. Their names which have not been previously published, are as follows:
Jacques and Andrew Terry; Julian Janan; James and Felix Jondreau; Octave Valise; Peter Dumo; Peter Roberge, Sr.; Peter Roberge, Jr.; Joseph Lascelle, and Robert Borrelle. There are others unknown. It has been reported that Frank Jordan, of Rosseau, N. Y., was on the ill-fated boat, but Mr. Macdougall says this is not so. There were about thirty men for the French River, eight horses, outfits, and a large amount of supplies. His actual loss has been $6,000. Mr. Macdougall had four boats on the ASIA. The schooner REDNOUGHT, which the ASIA towed, belonged to him. Whether she cut loose from the propeller or broke loose it is hard to say. She was capable of carrying 40 persons. The new canoe found at Byng Inlet belonged to Mr. Macdougall. Mr. Macdougall intended to go to French River himself, but the weather prevented him. During the spring he sent a quantity of lumber from French River to Port Hope, where it was rafted and made ready for a trip down the river. At Collingwood the weather looked rough, and he decided to come to Kingston and see if the lumber had arrived safely. It was well he did. He said he understood that the ASIA was a very fair craft. When she went out everything about her looked well.
The J.W. Hall Great Lakes Marine Scrapbook, September, 1882
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The steamer ASIA is lost on Georgian Bay in the storm of september 14. Over 100 lives are supposed to have been lost. The spot where she foundered is about 35 miles northwest of parry Sound.
Port Huron daily Times
Monday, September 18, 1882
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It is now known that at least 56 were drowned from the ASIA.
Port Huron daily Times
Tuesday, September 19, 1882
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It now appears the ASIA had 122 on board when she was lost last Tuursday. Of this number 97 were passengers, though the craft was overloded and only allowed by inspectors to carry 49.
Port Huron daily Times
Thursday, September 21, 1882
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ASIA, propeller of 364 tons reg. of St. Catharines and 9 years old, on a voyage from Presque Isle to French River, foundered of Byng Inlet owing to stress of weather, with the loss of 92 lives on Sept. 14th. 1882. She was valued at $25,000, but the value of her cargo is unknown…
Dept. of Marine & Fisheries
Statement of Wreck & Casualty for 1882.
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The statement of Mr. Shipp of Toronto, who left the ASIA at this port, which we published last week, as to a conversation he overheard between the Captain and a person whom he took to be the Inspector, has since been corroborated by Mr. A. Bowes, who left the boat with him. As we stated last week, the statement about an Inspector could not be true, as there was no inspector here, and if there was, such a discussion with the Captain was not a probable one. An explanation is now given which throws some light on the incident. It appears that Captain Campbell, one of the managers of the Line, had just arrived from Toronto and went on the dock, when seeing the fishing boat in tow of the ASIA some conversation took place about the danger that she would not reach French River as there was an appearance of rough weather — Captain Campbell at last saying to the captain of the ASIA, ” You tow her and I’ll risk her.” The conversation being heard by Mr. Bowes was taken to refer to the steamer instead of the fishing boat, and hence the misunderstanding, — a misunderstanding however, which saved the lives of Messrs. Shipp and Bowes. —-Times.
Friday, October 6, 1882
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The wooden propeller “ASIA,” of St. Catharines, 364 tons register, foundered off Byng Inlet in the Georgian Bay, on the l4th. of Sept. while on a voyage from Collingwood to French River with a general cargo. The vessel encountered an unusually severe storm, and suddenly listed over to starboard shortly after 11 o’clock in the fore-noon and gradually sank. A number of people got into one of the lifeboats but it turned over several times, each time losing some of the people who were in it, so that at sun-down, when the gale subsided, only seven were left. Of these five died from exposure, leaving only two survivors, a Miss Morrison and a Mr. Tinkiss, who reached land in a very exhausted condition by drifting ashore on the beach, and were subsequently rescued by an Indian, who took them in his boat to Parry Sound on the 17th. of September.
An investigation into the loss of this vessel was held by Capt. P.A. Scott R. N., Chairman of the Board of Examiners of Masters & Mates, who reported, that as far as could be ascertained, the vessel was not in good ballast trim, and that she was of that class of vessels known as”Old Canal Propellers.” The vessel appears to have been too light forward, and therefore unable to luff when the gale struck her, but had to bear it’s whole force on her broadside. It also appears that she had not sufficient cargo in her hold to enable a vessel of her description, with lofty upper works, to stand up against the gale.
It is estimated that 100 people lost their lives by this casualty. The vessel was nine years old, and was valued at 25,000 dollars. She was owned by the North-West Transportation Co. of Sarnia, and was classed A 2 in Inland Lloyds.
The Superintendent of the Meteorological Office at Toronto, reports as follows, with reference to the storm in which the ASIA was lost.
An examination of the synoptical weather chart for 10+50 p.m. Toronto time of the 13th. September, shows a comparatively unimportant depression situated over Manitoba. The gradients were not excessive nor was there anything to lead one to anticipate that within
twelve hours the wind would blow with the force of a hurricane on the northern part of Lake Huron and the Georgian Bay. On the morning of the 14th, at 6+50 A. M., Toronto time, the next chart was prepared; this shows that the depression, which on the previous night lay over Manitoba, had now moved to the north shore of Lake Huron, the gradients having steepened and the curves closed up in the center; this depression had thus travelled upwards of five hundred miles in eight hours, its rapidity of translation and intensity of development being exceptionally great.
The”ASIA” is reported to have left Collingwood at 5 P. M. on Wednesday, l3th, and making the usual stoppages at Meaford and Owen Sound; she left the latter place early on the morning of the 14th. for Sault Ste. Marie. This course would take her directly in the track of the storm, which by nine o’clock in the morning is reported from Manitoulin Island to have reached the velocity of a hurricane. In this storm however, the area of greatest intensity seem to have been confined to a comparatively limited region, as from the southern part of Lake Huron, from Lake Erie and Lake Ontario the force is reported as a fresh to strong gale, and this is what was to be anticipated from the appearance of the weather charts, as the Isobars widen out over the southern part of the lake region, thus showing a gradient for a less heavy gale there, than in the northern portion. The unfortunate ASIA would most probably have been about 11 A. M. in the center of this depression, and the squall which is reported to have struck her at this hour would probably be the gust accompanying the change of wind after the passage of the center. In almost all storms, this first squall is the heaviest experienced during the gale, and its appearance may be looked for when the sky begins to cloud up again after the brief clearing interval found in the center of these storms, especially in those where, as in this case, the gradient was steeper towards the center.
The question is frequently asked, was this gale such a one that even a well found and well handled ship must necessarily have foundered ? To this I can only answer that, I have no reports of instrumental measures, of the velocity of the wind at Manitoulin Island, as we have no anemometer there; but from the general damage done, and some of the particular cases quoted. I believe that the force of the wind must have been almost that of a hurricane for a short time and over a limited area, and as such gales, although, fortunately rare, do occasionally pass over the Great Lakes, all vessels navigating them should be so constructed and equipped as to be prepared to meet them.
Steamboat Inspection Boards
Chairmans report for 1882
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STORY OF THE ” ASIA ”
That Awul Night In Georgian Boy Ten Years Ago.
“D.A.Tinkis, Little Current.” This name and address appeared on the register at the Walker House early this week. The name is one which ten years ago was familiar to every person in Ontario as that of the sole male survivor of the ASIA.
The ASIA, it will be remembered, was a propeller that went down in the Georgian Bay ten years ago last month, carrying with her, with the exception of Mr. Tinkis and Miss Morrison, the 200 unfortunates who formed her passenger list and crew.
In conversation with the News, Mr. Tinkis yesterday told again the story of that terrible disaster. “I went aboard at Owen Sound, in company with my Uncle, on the night of September I882 ” he said. “It was blowing heavily from the southeast at the time, but we were anxious to reach our home on the Manitoulin, and beside we did not anticipate any special danger.
“The steamer was billed to call at French River, on the east shore of the Georgian Bay on the way up. We went to bed soon after going on board, and, although a gale was raging all night, we did not feel it very much until morning, as we were still under shelter of the Bruce Peninsula.
“About seven o’clock, as we changed our course to run straight across the bay for French River, the sea, now quartering aft, began to shake us up pretty well. Very few had breakfast on this account, but still no great alarm was felt. At nine the sea was raging and from that until ten the crew was busied in throwing over freight.
“Between ten and eleven the excitement was terrible. Men and Women, crazed with fear, were rushing around tearing the hair from their heads in handfuls. Rev. Mr. James, who had been a missionary at the Island, was one of the few passengers who kept cool, and he went about among the others administering the consolations of religion, and urging all to be calm.
“But it was of no use. The wind suddenly chopped from the south west to the northwest, and with a crash the vessel rolled over on her beam ends. The sea was now a mountainous whirlpool and the ship was helpless. The aft gangway leading from the promenade to the main deck, was jammed with men, women and children who could get neither up nor down. At every pitch this mass would writhe and twist like a serpent while the waves broke over then from above. The horses in the meantime-there were about ten or then aboard — had broken loose and at every roll they were thrown from one side of the main deck to the other.
“About this time my uncle and I, with a number of the passenger moved up to the promenade deck forward of the cabin. W.D. Henry, of king Township, was there too. In a little while we were joined by purser MacDougall, carrying the books belonging to his office. As soon as I saw that I knew that whatever hope there night have been before was all gone. The cabin was already broken in at several points, but still the old craft floated. At last about 11:30 she pitched up at the head and went down stern first, the cabin breaking off, and the boats, crowded with people, floated as she did so. At the very first sea however, the cabin went to smash and the mass of people hanging on to it were thrown into the sea, which was now running steadily from the northwest and in mountainous waves. I was in one of the wooden boats. It was crammed with people and scores hung on to the sides and others further out in the water clung to them again. But this could not last long. The sea soon broke the hold of those in the water and filled our boat at the same time.
“As soon as she was about to sink I sprang over and swam for the metallic lifeboat. There were great combs on every wave, and these, loaded with debris, broke over my head every time I came up on a crest. My hands and head were both cut and bleeding, but I reached the lifeboat and managed to clamber in.
“Notwithstanding the horror of the scene, it was incomparably grand and awe-inspiring. Every time we went down in the hollow we seemed in a valley of endless length with towering mountains on both sides. Some were still hanging to pieces of floating wreck, but we were driving fast before the sea and soon lost sight of wreckage and the other boats as well.
“Behind was the gulf into which two hundred had just sunk out of sight, all about was a mountainous sea and no land was visible from any quarter. There were about thirty people in the boat when I first got in, but as we only had one oar and could not direct her she upset in passing over almost every wave, and at each upset some were lost.
“There were two brothers — Sparks, of Ottawa — aboard. They were splendid fellows. At one upset a woman grasped him around the neck and pulled him down. The other seized the life line and held on to the side for two hours. We each had all we could do to take care of ourselves and none could give him a hand. He was too weak to pull himself in, but for two hours he held fast to the line and floated. It was the finest exhibition of nerve and endurance I ever saw in my life. But at last he had to let go and was drowned.
“About 7:30 in the evening we came in sight of Byng Inlet Light. The wind had gone down, but the see was still high. Of the thirty with whom are started but six were now left: Captain Savage. Mate McDonald, and a man named Little from Manitoulin, a Montrealer, Miss Morrison and myself.
“I thought — we all thought — these would all live to reach the shore, although two hours before a French deck-hand had gone crazy and jumped overboard. As the light gleamed over the billows we all led by the Mate, began singing “Pull for The Shore.” But the song ceased, and one by one the singers fell into that sleep that knows no waking. The Montreal man died at eight o’clock; Little went next and the Mate — who had been singing so joyfully, a little over three hours before – succumbed at eleven. I felt the premonitory symptom myself; an intense cold followed by numbness in the finger tips, and than the warm glow and drowsiness accompanied with an almost overpowering desire to dose. But I knew that 15 minutes of that meant the beginning of the eternal sleep and I resisted. Three time I aroused the Captain from his lethargy and told him he was dying, but it was of no use, and he too, crossed the bar about midnight.
“Our boat was still full of water and as each one died I placed the body under the seat to prevent it from being washed out. There was no sleep for Miss Morrison or myself that night. At daybreak we found ourselves about ten miles below Byng Inlet and drifting toward the islands that dot the shore.
“Between ten and eleven we struck land at Point aux Barrie, where the tugs take the inside channel for Parry Sound. This was on Friday. But even yet death stared us in the face. We were far from help and could not navigate our boat. All day and all night we stayed there with starvation staring us in the face until it seemed as if we had escaped the fierce billows to die of hunger. During the night I fell asleep, but not to rest. In my dreams I saw again the horrors of the day previous and starting up suddenly I fell into the water. I struck out, but in the darkness and confusion I took the wrong direction and soon found myself heading out into the open lake. I turned back and in a few minutes reached the shore, but at another point. Then I called for Miss Morrison but she was too weak to answer, and it was not until after considerable time had elapsed that I found her.
“At last, on Sunday morning about 9, we saw a sail. We were both almost delirious and thought it a large vessel, although it was only an Indian mackinaw. I hoisted my coat on the oar and the Indian came over.
“We had practically been without food since the previous Wednesday evening and this was near noon on Sunday. But the Indian had fat pork and “chock dog,” and from that I obtained the best meal I ever had in my life.
“I tried to get the Indian to take us to Manitoulin, but that was eighty niles off and too far for the Indian. Instead he agreed to run us to Parry Sound and we reached Sunday morning (?). The first man I met was ‘Josh’ Belcher, then of the ‘BELLE’, but purser on the ATLANTIC. You may be sure I never was so glad to see anyone in my life.
“J.C. Miller — he is dead now, poor fellow — took charge of me. Never shall I forget his kindness or that of his family. They could not have done more for me had I been their son.
Mr. Tinkis was a youth of about eighteen when the disaster occurred. He is now a prosperous business man at Little Current and shows no ill effects of the horrible experience of ten years ego. But his eyes moistens and his voice shakes even yet when that awful time is recalled to memory…
Friday, October 21, 1892