Divers Find Wreck Of Roberval
By James Donahue
A team of Great Lakes shipwreck researchers from Rochester, New York, recently found the remains of
the Roberval, a small Canadian steamship that sank in Eastern Lake Ontario on September 25, 1916.
The wreck is lying in about 300 feet of water about 15 miles off Oswego. Group member Jim Kennard
said they were completing their season of searching for historic shipwrecks when their sonar unexpectedly detected the Roberval.
The small 128-foot steamer was laden with lumber bound from Cape Vincent on the St. Lawrence River
to the Diamond Match Company in Oswego when it was hit by high northwest winds when it entered Lake Ontario. The lumber, piled
high on the open deck, was acting like a sail and causing the ship to roll. A rogue wave caused the Roberval to roll on its
starboard side and a second large wave carried away the loose deck cargo.
The waves smashed the galley window, bashed the upper cabins and one of the ship’s lifeboats.
The nine crew members were caught up in the disaster that happened so quickly they had little time to escape. The second fireman,
a man named Seguin was hit by sliding lumber as he was climbing to the deck, thrown into the lake where he drowned. Also lost
was a deck hand who was caught below deck and he went down with the wreck.
Captain Eligh was credited with saving the cook, who was hanging onto a railing and nearly went down
with the ship. A report said he grabbed the woman by her hair and pulled her out of the water and onto a makeshift raft he
and two other crew members fashioned from loose boards of lumber. The four kept their raft together for the next 22 hours
until they reached shore.
Three other sailors came ashore on the damaged lifeboat. They kept it afloat by constantly bailing.
The steel vessel was launched in 1907 in Toronto, Canada, and sailed under a Canadian flag. It was
always used as a bulk carrier, making regular trips between Ottawa and Oswego. The vessel carried wood into Oswego and returned