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The Britannia Bay Shipwreck: A Lost Steamship, And A 100 Year-Old Mystery Solved?

Britannia Bay is home to an 1800’s shipwreck that has left local historians questioning as to its identity for decades. Much to the disappointment of adventurers and divers, the shipwreck is almost completely eroded and in shallow water, but the story behind is far more exciting.




The Wreck of the Anne Sisson

  1. England’s monarch, Queen Victoria, selects Ottawa as the capital of Canada. She commissions her son, the future King Edward VII, to make the first official royal visit to Canada. 

On his Ottawa stop, he lays the cornerstone for the Parliament Buildings, then boards the Anne Sisson, a 140-foot side-wheeler steamship. Outfitted to ship lumber, the boat is repurposed to take the future ruler on a grand tour of the Ottawa River.  

Eleven years later, the Anne Sisson is put out to sea in a less purposeful way: It’s burned, stripped, and abandoned in the Ottawa River…but where?

For years, curious Ottawans have speculated about the ship’s whereabouts. But two of the most intrepid, Britannia resident Mike Kaulbars and local author Andrew King, may have finally cracked this 147-year-old maritime mystery. 


A photo of the Anne Sison docked at Pontiac, QC. Photo from Library & Archives Canada via Ottawa Rewind.




Mystery Solved? In 1962, a lighthouse keeper in Britannia Bay uncovered a nearby shipwreck. Its misidentification threw search parties looking for the Anne Sisson off track for years. But Kaulbars, noting some flawed logic in the wreck’s 60-year-old classification, grew convinced that the sunken vessel was the remains of the Anne Sisson.   

He shared information with King, who accessed aged aerial photographs of the site. The astute King noted a curious-looking shape beneath the waves. But a comparative study with more recent imaging didn’t match up.  

Partnering with an Ottawa area archaeological consulting service, King and company set out for a first-hand look-see. They targeted the old cottage village of Belltown, sandwiched between Britannia Bay and the shoreline. There, they turned up bits and pieces of a disassembled steamship.  

Is it the legendary Anne Sisson? While a proper archeological assessment remains to be conducted, all evidence suggests that indeed, this relic from our city’s earliest days may well have finally been uncovered.


Images of the shipwreck today by Andrew King, via Ottawa Rewind.



You can read Andrew King’s detailed article of the wreck, and his investigation on King’s website Ottawa Rewind.


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