Special Declaration from Board of Directors Of Preserve Our Wrecks, Kingston, Ontario

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“Take only pictures… leave only bubbles”

Preserving the past, protecting the future.

Preserve Our Wrecks (POW) Kingston wishes it to be known that the Board and its members do not condone the removal of artifacts from marine heritage or potential marine heritage sites unless proper Federal and Provincial procedures are followed. POW is a volunteer-driven charitable organization dedicated to advocating for and trying to preserve our marine heritage and work in concert with the province and federal governments. However, they are not an archeological enforcement agency. In rare cases, the Board acknowledges that events such as for the purposes of preservation and to prevent theft, or when it happens by accident, individuals may be involved with the removal of artifacts. When individuals are involved in such matters they must contact the Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries of Ontario, and/or the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada (HSMBC) regarding the site and details.

In the past few years, it has come to the attention of the Board of POW Kingston of multiple events of artifact removals in its area of interest. These are by no means isolated issues, as these types of events are reported all across Canada. One case was the intentional removal to prevent the theft of a compass on the Eureka wreck. A second case involved the accidental removal of a ships wheel and mechanism from and unidentified site, in the vicinity of Amherst Island. In each case, the individuals involved were counselled on the proper procedure to follow. However, it was not done in a public forum.

The Board chooses, as it is not “the heritage police”, not to make a public spectacle of such events, and use face-to-face discussions to effect change. POW Kingston acknowledges it has drawn criticism of said policy. The Board feels that public spectacles are counterproductive and will drive people to hide these concerns out of fear of reprisals.

In the case of the removal of the compass from the Eureka wreck, the details are complicated due to legal ramifications surrounding the finding of the site, and the cloud over it not being reported due to said issues. When the individual was confronted with the concerns, he moved it to a museum for holding. It took too long to get the compass into a museum (Marine Museum of the Great Lakes at Kingston), but it is being held there nonetheless for the public to view when the museum reopens.

In the case of the wheel mechanism, when confronted by members of the Board: the finder, and the person involved in cleaning it for display both insist it is being donated to a museum but would not indicate which or where.

This has identified to the Board that many people do not know the correct procedure for artifact removal, whether intentional or accidental. In general, the federal and provincial governments do not support removal of artifacts from heritage or potential heritage sites at all. If you find a “new wreck”, you must report it to the Ontario government Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries and/or the Federal Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada.

The province requires a complete submitted survey of the site as per nautical archeology standards before removal of artifacts may begin. Marine surveying is difficult due to the nature of the sites having no natural method to ensure site management. Once the survey is a complete removal of an artifact will require further Federal and/or Provincial permissions which may or may not necessarily be granted. In exceedingly rare cases, the HSMBC may allow for emergency removal of artifacts to be placed in a museum and held in guarantee until placement. Education regarding this subject is a steep learning curve and this is a very simplified summary of the concept, and as such, this is not the final authority to just go do what you feel you want.

Unfortunately, very few actually know the policies or procedures and act out of general goodwill. There are some, such as but not limited to our friends from the United States, who do not have such laws and regulations to follow or locals who believe due to lax enforcement of laws believe Ontario and Canada could be a treasure hunting playground and believe they can do as they please. Only public education and federal police responses can stop that. To date, federal and provincial enforcement of said rules has been very limited in regard to nautical heritage sites. That is not an excuse to just ignore these rules.

To restate: POW does not condone the removal of artifacts from heritage or potential heritage sites.

If you feel you have found a new site and believe that artifacts are at risk of theft, immediately contact the Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries of Ontario as soon as possible. If you feel this is out of your capability to deal with, you can also contact archeological experts such as Dr. Kimberly Monk Ph.D., Department of History, Brock University. You can also contact Board Chairs of POW Kingston or various Save Ontario Shipwrecks (SOS) chapters to help guide you to the correct way to deal with this issue.

Protecting Kingston and surrounding regions’ marine heritage is a time and resource-consuming volunteer-based task. POW Kingston does not receive Federal or Provincial funding and is entirely donation-driven. All Board members work on a pure volunteer basis. Please, take time to donate to POW Kingston – 100% of all donations go towards marine heritage preservation efforts. The vast majority of which goes towards the local mooring project. POW Kingston’s largest project is the mooring project in Kingston’s waters and requires substantial funding, which only comes from donations.

A single mooring alone can cost upwards of $1000 between the buoy, lines, and shackles, which are required to protect a marine heritage site. Moorings protect wrecks from anchor damage and allow for safer diver experiences. These moorings are open for all to enjoy, and if you want more moorings in the area, we need your help. Your money will go towards helping us preserve our underwater historical sites. Please give generously.

Thank you in advance for your help and support!

On behalf of the board, Guillaume Courcy: President, Preserve Our Wrecks, Kingston

Photo Credit: Matthew Charlesworth

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