Over the Waves: Nisbet Grammer

As some of you may have heard, September was a very busy month for shipwrecks. The Canadian Government, working with Parks Canada and different agencies, finally located the HMS Erebus from the fabled Franklin expedition. Shortly after, a four-man team located the wreck of the Nisbet Grammer, a steel cargo ship that collided with another ship and sank to the bottom of Lake Ontario almost 90 years ago.

Ship Stats

  • Nationality: British
  • Length: 77.1 metres
  • Beam: 13.1 metres
  • Draught: 5.5 metres
  • Weight: 1,750 tonnes
  • Speed: 10 knots
  • Year: 1923

The Nisbet Grammer was built in England by Cammell Laird & Co., launched on April 14, 1923. She was a canaller, used to carry coal, grain, and other resources through the Welland Canal in Ontario.

The Nisbet Grammer being launched in 1923.

Her career was short-lived, ended on the foggy night of May 31, 1926. The water was calm, but the fog was thick that night, causing the Nisbett to slow her speed to 4.5 knots, plodding through the waters just off New York State's coast. Her crew could hear the sounds of another ships foghorn, but other than that it was a calm night.

That all changed very suddenly. Out of the mist in front of the Nisbet loomed another steamer, the Dalwarnic. The Nisbet tried to do a hard turn to starboard, but it was too late and the Dalwarnic ploughed right into the side of her. With a large hole now carved into her side, the Lake Ontario waters poured into her hull. The crew abandoned ship, and in 15 minutes the Nisbet Grammer had headed to the bottom of the lake. All 15 crew members were saved by the Dalwarnic.

Imaging of the wreck of the Nisbet Grammer on the bottom of Lake Ontario.

In 2008, a team of four researchers from Ohio, New York, and Texas began searching for the steamship again. Over 207 square kilometres were searched over six years, until September 2014. While passing 12.9km off the coast of Somerset, NY, the side sonar caught their first glimpse of the wreck.

Since then, an ROV has sent back images of the wreck that had long been forgotten. If you want to watch a video of the footage of the wreck, just click here to watch the YouTube video.The Nisbet Grammer was the largest steel shipwreck in Lake Ontario, and now we know were she ended up. With everything that we know for certain in the world, it always makes me excited when we find something that has been lost, especially if it's been almost a century.

Images this week were from here, and here.

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