Over the Waves: SS Alexandria

Ship Stats

  • Sailed by: Canada Steamship Lines
  • Length: 22.5 metres
  • Beam: 9.3 metres
  • Weight: 508 tonnes

The SS Alexandria was a steam paddle boat that travelled along the Great Lakes from 1866-1915. She was originally constructed as a freight vessel, but was then refitted and extended to allow for passenger travel, making runs all along the Canadian shores with the occasional trip across to the United States. Towards the end of her career, however, she was changed back into a freight ship, moving goods from one port to the next.

On August 3, 1915, she was sailing from Port Hope to Toronto. Her holds were loaded with items including sugar, vinegar, and tomatoes. A brutal storm blew up along Lake Ontario hammering the Alexandria with heavy seas and strong winds. Captain William Bloomfield did his best to steer against the weather, but it was too much for the paddleboat and she was pushed up against the breakers just below the Scarborough Bluffs.

Witnesses from above tried to quickly make their way down the shore as all 22 crew members pulled on their life vests and leapt into the water. A human chain formed from the shore, bringing all the crew members in safely. The same could not be said for the Alexandria, and she slipped beneath the waves. The next day, when the weather had calmed, people descended on the wreck, taking everything worth value that sat above the water line!

SS Alexandria was one of the few local Canadian wrecks I knew about growing up. When I was 10, there was an article about her in the local paper. The water levels in Lake Ontario were particularly low that year, and the article talked about how standing on the top of the Bluffs, you could see the vessels smokestack sticking out of the water. One of my Uncles came and picked me up one day, and we went to check it out. We couldn't get as close as I would have liked, but a quick trip to the library gave me all the information I needed about this not-so-well-known vessel. It was my first experience seeing a wreck, and my first big fill-in-the-blanks research trip, and just made me keep wanting to do this sort of work!

(Thanks, Uncle Craig!)

I also have a Twitter account where I post info about boats, pictures, and occasionally random stuff. Follow me @OriginalShipstr!

Images from Maritime History of the Great Lakes and the City of Toronto Archives.

Sources: blogTO, and The Wreck of the SS Alexandria by the Canadian Archaeological Divers Society.