• Schooner
  • 90ffw 30m
  • 136Ft Lengths
  • Main Duck, Lake Ontario
  • N 43 53.035 W 76 50.515

Chronological History

  • 1856 Owned Louis Shickluna, Saint Catharines, Ontario
  • 1858 Capsized, Lake Ontario
  • 1859 Raising Fails by Boston Marine Company
  • 1976 Located by Barb Carson
  • 1980 A Cousteau diver was lost on the wreck
  • 1996 Relocated Ducks Dive/Chris Kohl

David Swayze Shipwreck File

  •   R.H. RAE
  • Other names   :  none
  • Official no.     : C  none
  • Type at loss    :  bark, wood, 3-mast
  • Build info       :  1857, Donaldson &Andrews, St. Catharines
  • Specs              :  136x23x11,  344 t.
  • Date of loss    :  1858, Aug 3 or 4
  • Place of loss   :  S of Pt. Traverse
  • Lake                : Ontario
  • Type of loss    :  storm
  • Loss of life      :  none
  • Carrying         :  wheat
  • Detail              : She capsized and sank in a “white squall” off Duck’s Creek. She went down slowly enough for her people to abandon in her smallboat. They were later picked up by the propeller COLONIST. There was a big effort to salvage her the next summer, but to no avail. She was a total loss of $20,000. Owned by Rae Bros. & Co., Hamilton, Ont. Master: Capt. Bowman.
  • She was reportedly built for the trans-Atlantic trade and looked more like a seagoing schooner.
  • Named after and owned by a well-known arctic navigator of the time.
  • Wreck is in very good condition. The famed Cousteau organization lost a diver on her in 1980.

St. Catharines Journal Thursday October 8th, 1857 #

The Barque R.H. Rae was built by Donaldson & Andrews of St. Catharines Ontario in 1857 for the firm Rae Bros. & Co. of Hamilton. She was launched Monday ,October 5th, 1857 and christened by Miss Andrews, eldest daughter of one of the firm. She was described “as a piece of naval architecture she is pronounced second to none on the lakes”. Classed A-1, the highest classification, she had a number of innovations.

The R.H. Rae was the first Canadian vessel to incorporate Cunningham’s patented self-reefing topsail design. This system was demonstrated at the time of launch, and one of the topsails was deployed and reefed in a span of three minutes with no men going aloft. This was a major step forward, as men being launched into the sea, or vessels being damaged when forced to carry too much sail had always been major concerns. Instead of normally floating the “ceiling” at or below the main arch, they continued up to the deck against the ribs, then the arch is put on and over that the “clamp”. Although this process consumes a few feet more wood, the additional strength and consequence security obtained more than counterbalance the expenditure.

Another improvement is the placing of two strong iron bars behind each mast, down through the keelson, instead of alongside the centerboard box, according to the usual plan. Around the centerboard is generally the strongest portion of the vessel and if leaks do occur in the box, they are always aggravated by the action of the mast, but this principle adopted by the builders of the Rae will alleviate all such occurrence in future and keep that part as watertight as other portions of the craft.

The Rae has also a double bulkhead, a precaution against an accident that will be easily appreciated and comprehended by those, not at all acquainted with seafaring life. Her first voyage under the command of Capt. Bowman was to Chicago and back. After wintering in Hamilton, she was to haul cargo to the “old country ” in the spring of 1858. We don’t know if this trip was undertaken or not.

The R.H.Rae capsized and sank during a white squall on August 3,1858. All of the crew managed to escape.

Discovery The wreck of the R.H. Rae was first discovered by Barbara Carson of Kingston in 1976. At her invitation, Cousteau visited the site during his Great Lakes expedition in 1980.

Over the years, only a handful of divers have known the location of and have dove the wreck. During the summer of 1996, the M.R.Duck’s from Duck’s Dive Shop in Point Traverse with the help of Chris Kohl (Dive Ontario & Dive Ontario Two books) and a side-scan sonar unit “rediscovered” the R.H.Rae. She is now open for public diving from charter boats in both Port Traverse and Kingston.

Current Description #

The R.H. Rae rests upright on her keel and is still relatively intact, considering she has been on the bottom for 138 years. The deck has collapsed in most areas, but the hull with it’s pointed bow and squared-off transom are in excellent shape. Still visible is a carved symbol on the transom. Unique to this wreck is a split rudder system with its tiller gear steering system. Spread over the deck area are a number of various sized blocks and deadeyes, some pottery and tools. The railing is intact in some areas and laying on the deck in others. Also of interest are several sections of wooden bilge pipe and what appears to be an anchor winch (not windlass) on the bow. The R.H. Rae is a very interesting pre-Confederation vessel.

Buffalo Commercial Advertiser January 15, 1859 (1858 Casualty List) #

Bark R. H. RAE (C), cargo of wheat, sprang a leak and sank off the Duck’s, Lake Ontario. Total loss. Property loss $33,000.      

Daily British Whig August 5, 1858 p.2 #

Marine Disaster – loss of barque R. H. RAE at noon August 4th.      
The Late Storm – loss of schooner JOHN H. RAE (sic); the Canadian Mail Line steamers Banshee and Champion were out in storm. [by error they’ve identified the barque R. H Rae as the sch. John Rae]      

Daily British Whig       August 7, 1858 p.2 #

The Barque ” R. H. RAE ` built in this town last year by Messrs. Donaldson and Andrews, for Messrs. Rae of Hamilton, capsized off Ducks on the 4 th. The crew were picked up by the propeller COLONIST and landed at Kingston. The RAE we understand was uninsured.      

St. Catharines Journal Tuesday August 12th, 1858 #

Bark R. H. RAE, Canadian, with a cargo of wheat, Sprunk a leak and sank off the “Ducks,” Lake Ontario. Total Loss. The estimated value of the loss, $55,000.

August 1858 Shipping Casualty List for 1858 Buffalo Commercial Advertiser Saturday, January 15, 1859 #

 BARQUE R. H. RAE SUNK. – The barque R. H. RAE, owned in Hamilton, C. W., and bound from Chicago to Montreal, with 16,000 bushels of wheat, was struck by a hurricane about 40 miles from Kingston, Lake Ontario, on Tuesday last, and sunk Her royal yards are above water. Her crew was taken off by the steamer COLONIST and taken to Prescott.      

Buffalo Daily Courier Wednesday, August 11, 1858 #

TO BE RAISED – An effort is to be made to raise the bark R. H. RAE, sunk last fall some 30 miles this side of Kingston, C.W. Mr. Quigley, the submarine diver, is to make the attempt. She lies in water to the depth of ninety-five feet.

Detroit Free Press Buffalo Daily Courier  Wednesday, June 15, 1859 #

Mr. Quigley, the well-known submarine explorer, leaves this city on Monday for Kingston, C. W., preparatory to raising the bark R. H. RAE, capsized and sunk near the islands familiarly known as ‘the ducks,’ thirty miles this side of Kingston. The RAE is a very handsome craft belonging to Rae and Brothers, Hamilton, and was entirely new when she went down, it is her first or second trip. She lies in 95 feet water, and with a less accomplished operator than Mr. Quigley, the success of the attempt would be very problematical; we do not doubt, however, that he will meet with success. He is provided with air pumps, diving apparatus, jack-saws, etc.

Detroit Tribune Daily British Whig June 24, 1859 p.2 #

On A Wrecking Tour – The Boston Marine Company’s steamer Relief is at present endeavoring to raise the wreck of the barque JOHN RAE, of Hamilton, which lies near the Ducks, having been sunk 5 or 6 years ago, with a cargo of grain. The boat was valued at $20,000, and the wreck is well worth the trouble of raising it. [again the confused reference to the barque R. H. Rae

Daily British Whig  June 27, 1867 p.2 #

NOTE – Proper name is R. H. RAE

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