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King: On the hunt for a shipwreck here in Ottawa

October 6, 2018
Andrew King, The Ottawa Citizen

It was the first official royal visit to the Province of Canada and an appropriate ship was needed.

The year was 1860, and Ottawa had recently been selected by Queen Victoria as the permanent capital.

Her Majesty would never visit Canada herself; it was said she despised traveling on water due to seasickness. Instead, she sent her son, Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII, to make the trip.

The 18-year-old prince would visit Newfoundland, the Maritimes and the Province of Canada, later Ontario and Quebec, and open the Victoria Bridge between the Island of Montréal and the south shore of the St. Lawrence River. The future king would also visit Ottawa and lay the cornerstone for the Parliament Buildings.

The Prince then boarded a steamship named Ann Sisson.

Owned by Brewster & Mulholland, from Montreal, the 139-foot side-wheeler steamship had been outfitted for the prince and his entourage, who boarded in Aylmer to tour north on the Ottawa River.

As evening approached, the royal party decided to stay overnight in Quyon. The next day, she docked in Pontiac and the prince boarded a horse railway to take Edward on the remainder of his Ottawa Valley Tour.

That was it, really, for the steamship’s moment in the royal spotlight.

The vessel was returned to its duties as a lumber steamer. Later strengthened, it would become a passenger steamer in 1863, transporting people between Aylmer and Pontiac for the Union Forwarding and Railway Co.

Records show that the ship once good enough for a prince was stripped and abandoned in the Ottawa River in 1871.

That’s where I come into this story. I had become intrigued with this piece of Ottawa history and decided to embark upon a quest of my own making to find it.

After 147 years underwater, would there even be anything left of the old river steamship?

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