Lady of the Lake Disaster Of 1833
By James Donahue
Almost a century before the great steamship Titanic met its end by
striking an iceberg in the North Atlantic, the Scottish brig Lady of the Lake lost a battle with ice in about the same area,
taking about 197 souls to the bottom with it.
The wooden hulled sailing ship, under the command of Captain John
Grant, was sailing from Belfast to Quebec with 231 souls on board when it got tangled up in a large field of ice about 250
miles off Capt St. Francis, Newfoundland, on the morning of May 10, 1833.
The brig left Belfast on April 8, so had been at sea for just over
a month, with everybody on board anxious to reach landfall when the problem developed.
The ship’s crew struggled to turn the vessel around in the thickening
ice and work the ship back toward open water. After about three hours the brig was almost free when a large chunk of ice pierced
in the starboard bow. The ship listed and began sinking almost immediately. It went down in about 20 minutes, taking the passengers
The crew launched two boats. One of them headed northwest toward land
while the other stayed with the sinking ship. From the records found, there were 231 people on the Lady of the Lake, and all
but 34 were drowned. This suggests that perhaps the crew fled the sinking ship, leaving the passengers behind.
Another account said only the captain and 14 others survived.
One of the small boats remained caught in the ice for three days before
the occupants were picked up by a passing vessel, the Messenger. The Messenger and a second ship, the Gypsey, also reached
the survivors in the second boat. They had somehow reached a second ship caught in the ice that spring. It was the Harvest
Home, which was abandoned by its crew.
It was said the ice eventually destroyed the Harvest Home, but there
were no casualties when it sank.