Bones on Coast Could Be 1847 Shipwreck Victims

The Carricks of Whitehaven was en route to Quebec City when it went down
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 4, 2016 10:22 AM CDT
Bones on Coast Could Be 1847 Shipwreck Victims
Cap-des-Rosiers lighthouse, view to the east from above the lighthouse. Cap-des-Rosiers, Gaspe, Quebec, July 1971.   (Wikimedia Commons/Laurent Belanger)

In late July, human remains were found near Cap-des-Rosiers, Quebec—and archaeologists believe they may belong to people who died at sea in 1847. The story of the Carricks of Whitehaven layers tragedy upon tragedy: Passengers on the Irish ship were trying to escape the potato famine that was killing their countrymen, only to see their ship go down in a storm while en route to Quebec City. Of the nearly 200 people on the Carricks, at least 80 are believed to have died off the Gaspe coast. Parks Canada archaeologist Martin Perron says the remains, which look to belong to five adults and three kids, appear to have been quickly deposited in what the Canadian Press calls a "shallow trench"—and could potentially be a mass grave.

Bones have been found in the same area before. The Globe and Mail's report on the initial May 2011 find there noted that historical accounts describe victims as being laid out on the beach before burial, but no specific location of the grave was reported. It quotes some historical writings: a magazine article from the time noting the ship "went to pieces in the course of two hours," and a 1919 book on Gaspe that stated, "For a whole day two oxcarts carried the dead to deep trenches near the scene of the disaster." A 2014 Mail article reported that the bones found in 2011 were determined to be those of three European children who experienced malnutrition—suggesting they were very likely Carricks victims. Parks Canada will be using ground-penetrating radar in a search for additional remains. (This famous Canadian shipwreck finally floats again.)

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