89' x 218/10' x 78/10'
63.94 registered tonnage
The Frontenac was originally designed as a working river tug and had little or no historical significance. As such, there is very little information available on her. Most of this information came from old newspaper clippings supplied by Spencer Shoniker, and the period surface photographs are from Rick Nielson's personal collection.
Newspaper reports are conflicting as to the day she left port for the last time, but she foundered on Wednesday, December 11. The basis for the following scenario is an interview with Captain Omar Marin of the Rival, who rescued the crew and captain of the Frontenac. It is interesting to note that Captain Marin and his crew had themselves been rescued a few weeks earlier from the sinking of the tug Russell, which had sank while bound for Hamilton with a barge in tow.
The two tugs had cleared Portsmouth harbour about 1:45 P.M. for the grounded freighter Sarniadoe to take off cargo. The Rival had the barge Cobourg in tow. The tugs arrived at Ducks Island about 5:00 P.M. and due to weather conditions were forced to return. It was about 8:15 P.M., with a heavy sea running when the Frontenac began to blow distress signals. The Rival cast off the line to the barge and started back to the Frontenac. On reaching the Frontenac, she had settled low in the water with waves sweeping over her. The crew was standing beside one of the lifeboats ready to swing out when the Rival came alongside and took off the crew. They picked up the barge in bitter cold, with ice covering the tug and made their way back to Portsmouth. It was presumed at the time that, buffeted by heavy seas and being built of wood, the tug was unable to stand the strain. This is even though she had been completely refitted the previous year.
The local manager of Sin-Mac Lines, reportedly on board the tug when she went down, refused comment to the newspapers. Captain Mallen and the crew of the Frontenac returned to their homes in Morrisburg without commenting on the sinking. The loss of that ship almost 67 years ago, gave us an opportunity to explore what few divers encounter, an undisturbed shipwreck.
The club to which we belong, The Niagara Divers' Association has enjoyed a close relationship with Spencer over the past number of years and its members look forward to 2 or 3 charters every year. On one such trip on September 9, 1995 we made a decision to check one of Spencer's prime search areas during one of our surface intervals. As we approached the search area, a crowd gathered in the wheelhouse watching Spencer's two depth sounders and colour sonar. Within five minutes the sonar registered a definite hit and the first marker went over the side. A second marker went over on the next pass, and landed , as we soon learned, on the deck of the Frontenac of Kingston.
We hope that the fate of the Frontenac will be much like other Kingston wrecks, where each dive reveals more artifacts. All of us must understand that these things have been found before by others, who have left them there for us to see.
Frontenac's Brass Bell & Plates (30K)
Frontenac's Bronze Wheel (20K)
Frontenac's Two Anchors (22K)
Frontenac's Bow & Houser Pipe (21K)
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