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Phips' Ship Found April 7, 1997
by Myron Love

A sunken ship in the St. Lawrence River has been identified as one of four vessels from Massachusetts lost after an ill-fated attack on Quebec City in 1690. Found half-buried in sand near the town of Baie Trinitie, Quebec, the ship is believed to have carried soldiers from Dorchester, Massachusetts.

In the summer of 1690, a flotilla of 34 ships under the command of Sir William Phips left Massachusetts to attack Quebec City in the early years of the French and Indian War. Phips was so confident of success that he sent a messenger to the governor of Quebec, the Comte de Frontenac, telling him that the French had an hour to surrender. The French, however, were well prepared and turned back the attack.

A small expedition led by the Department of Canadian Heritage has been studying a porringer with the initials I.M.S. uncovered by winter storms. The first two initials match those of Increase Mosely, one of the men on board the Dorchester ship; his wife's name was Sarah. "At the time, it was common for militiamen to have personal items bearing the initials of their first name, family name, and wife's name," says Robert Grenier, head of underwater archaeology for Parks Canada. "The initials correspond to only one person from the expedition, an officer." A musket found on board the ship was engraved with the initials C.T., corresponding to Cornelius Tileston, another member of the Dorchester company.

The ship's planks were made of white pine, a species not native to Europe, indicating that the boat was probably built or refitted in New England. The Department of Canadian Heritage has mapped the exposed parts of the ship, while protecting the ship and its artifacts in situ. Underwater excavations are planned for this summer.

© 1997 by the Archaeological Institute of America