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Name: Waubuno
Owner: Georgian Bay Transportation Company
Builder: Melancthon Simpson, Port Robinson
Completed: 1865
Fate: Lost in a storm on 22 November 1879 with all hands
Status: Sunk
General characteristics
Tonnage: 193 tons
Length: 135 feet
Installed power: Steam
Propulsion: Paddle steamer

The Waubuno was a side-wheel paddle steamer that conveyed passengers and freight between Collingwood and Parry Sound in the 1860s and 1870s.[1] It sank with all hands during a gale on the night of November 22, 1879, though the exact cause of its sinking is unknown.

The Waubuno was built by Melancthon Simpson at Port Robinson in 1865 for J. & W. Beatty and Company,[2] and was later owned by the Georgian Bay Transportation Company.[3] Her main purpose was to run passengers and freight from the Northern Railway's railhead at Collingwood to places further north, including Parry Sound and Thunder Bay.[2] Its name was derived from Algonquin and means "Black Magician"[4] or "Sorcerer".[5]

Last voyage

The ship was loaded down with supplies destined for Parry Sound, and was likely the last voyage the ship could make before ice made future trips impossible until the following Spring.[1] The ship, Captained by George Plumpton Burkitt, had been trying to leave the southern Georgian Bay town of Collingingwood since November 18, 1879, but snow and fierce winds had kept the ship in port.[6]

The ship set in during a break in the weather on November 21 with 24 crew and passengers.[7] The ship was last spotted afloat by the lighthouse keeper at Christian Island who noted that the ship was faring well.[8] The Steamer Magnettawan left later on the same morning as the Waubuno and after sheltering overnight at the Christian Island, arrived at Parry Sound November 24, never having spotted the other ship.


When the Waubuno failed to turn up at its destination, the tug Millie Grew was sent out to look for the paddle steamer. It returned to report that they had found a portion of the wreck. A contemporary article on the disaster from the Parry Sound North Star says that the crew of the Millie Grew

...could find no trace of the crew, but picked up several articles that they knew belonged to the missing vessel, consisting of a metallic life boat turned bottom up and stove in at both ends, a life-preserver with the ships name on it, several articles of furniture out of the cabin, the ships ledger, and a part of the paddle Box with the letters W.A. on it. Barrels of apples, flour, and different articles of freight were distributed along the shore in abundance.[7]

No bodies were ever recovered.[9]

In the Spring of 1880 an upturned hull identified as that of the lost ship was found on Moberly Island, and latter that summer a tug was employed to turn it over to allow investigators to determine why the ship sank. Following the ship's disappearance there had been rumours that its wooden superstructure was rotten, or that its boilers had blown up. Those at the scene found what timbers that remained to be sound, and there was no sign that the hull had been damaged by an internal explosion.[3]

Other parts of the ship have been recovered over the years. A hull which is thought to be that of the Waubuno can be found in waters 15 ft (4.5 metres) deep at 45°07′15″N 80°09′58″W / 45.12083°N 80.16611°W / 45.12083; -80.16611, near Wreck Island.[7] though the identification is disputed.[4] Its rudder can be found on display at Midland Ontario's Huronia Museum.[4] Its anchor was recovered in 1959.[9]


Further reading

  • Hunter, Douglas. The Sorcerer's Ship: The sinking of the oddly named Waubuno is one of the strangest in Georgian Bay's history, (June-July, 2009). The Beaver.
  • Ratigan, Bill. Great Lakes Shipwrecks and Survivals. Grand Rapids: WB Eerdmans, 1977. ISBN 0802870104.