Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Government and locals at odds about fate of 100-year-old shipwreck

  • March 3 2021
  • By Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative reporter    

DRUM HEAD – Almost 100 years ago, the steamer Scotia caught fire and sank off the shores of Drum Head, Guysborough County, while hauling $75,000 worth of cargo from Halifax to Boylston, Guysborough County.

In the intervening years, what was left of the vessel has sat in the shoals off Harbour Island, within sight of Drum Head residents. Jason Langley grew up looking out over those waters, the same ones he fishes today. He told The Journal last week that the wreck of the Scotia was a part of local history, a landmark in the community. And he, as well as many others, was shocked to hear the news last week that the government planned to move what remained of the vessel as part of the Abandoned Boats Program.

“I heard it on the radio when I went to the store yesterday (Feb. 22) and I was thunderstruck,” said Langley.

Why the government would decide to move the Scotia now, a century after it sank is a mystery to Langley, who said the wreck posed no threat to navigation. He told The Journal, “It’s been here my entire life. The stories and things that were told about that boiler; it’s part of our lives. It’s a marine ecosystem basically now … It would cause more damage now to move it.”

When the Abandoned Boats Program announcement was released on Feb. 22 by Nova Scotia Lands Inc., a provincial Crown corporation whose mandate is to assess and, where required, remediate and redevelop crown-owned properties, listing Drum Head as one of 10 clean-up sites, local residents were at a loss as to what vessel the project could be referring to. None of them imagined it was the Scotia.

Langley said his Facebook feed was full of messages from young and old alike when news got out that the Scotia would be removed. “My Facebook went crazy … not a single person wanted it moved.”

Langley said many people commented that the money could be better spent elsewhere in the community. But how much money that is, has yet to be determined. No tender has yet been awarded for the job. The news release announcing the abandoned vessels program stated that $593,620 was available for the clean-up of 14 identified vessels across Nova Scotia which includes the Scotia in Drum Head.

Trish Smith, a spokesperson for Nova Scotia Lands Inc., told The Journal via email that, “The vessel was identified as a derelict vessel and our mandate is to remove it. It has not been previously identified as a vessel of marine heritage on the Transport Canada database, so it doesn’t have a designation that would prevent it from being removed.”

The removal is slated to occur after August 30, 2021. The Scotia sank on August 26, 1921.

Langley told The Journal, “We’re going to protest that. There’s no way in hell we’re going to let them move that now. It’s a historic landmark.”

The vessel was identified for removal by the Department of Lands and Forestry. The Journal requested information regarding the reason for removal of the Scotia at this time; but as of the time of publication, no comment had yet been received.