The City of Hamilton's Role

Upcoming Community Events

Hamilton & Scourge Society - Annual General Meeting
Wednesday, May 21 - 7:30 p.m.
Hamilton Museum of Steam & Technology
900 Woodward Ave., Hamilton (map)

Legislation Protecting the Wrecks

The City of Hamilton Act, 1979, enabled the City to pass by-laws relating to all aspects of the study, raising, display and restoration of the Hamilton and Scourge as well as their artifacts.


Ownership was still with the United States Navy until 1978 when it was transferred to the City of Hamilton by Congress through the Royal Ontario Museum. The City of Hamilton stepped in and assumed title to the wrecks at that time largely due to the enthusiasm of the then Mayor John A. MacDonald and Alderman William M. McCulloch.

Cultural Heritage Issues for all Sites

Shipwreck hunting, in some countries, is proposed as a way of managing underwater cultural resources. In some cases this activity has been glamourised by various media with documentaries and descriptions of exotic discoveries. Government approaches to underwater cultural resource management vary greatly. In Vietnam the government entrusted the recovery of a cargo of ancient Chinese porcelain to a salvage company. The cargo was sold at auction in London in 1992. In 1993 Portugal also offered for sale part of its underwater heritage before the new legislation was frozen in late 1995.

At the opposite end of the spectrum countries such as Greece and Turkey were among the first to actively pursue underwater excavation and salvage projects without dispersing any of the artifacts recovered.

International bodies like UNESCO have now put forward recommendations designed to protect and manage underwater sites. UNESCO's agenda now includes the establishment of international standards for the protection of the world's underwater heritage.

The Hamilton-Scourge Society

In 1976 the National Historic Sites and Monuments board noted that the shipwrecks are "considered to be of national historic significance," and have attracted much international attention. The two ships present a unique glimpse into the military and social life of early 19th century Canada. This time capsule, a moment in history captured and preserved by the icy waters of Lake Ontario, provide an exciting opportunity for generating knowledge and community involvement.

Since the shipwrecks' discovery in 1973, a number of experts from around the world have conducted unmanned dives to examine the ships. Today, the ships are owned by the Corporation of the City of Hamilton and managed through the Hamilton-Scourge Project within the Cultural and Events Services Branch of the Department of Culture and Recreation, Community Services Division.

The Hamilton-Scourge Society, a non-profit organization, was formed in 1982 to create awareness for the Hamilton-Scourge Project and undertake fundraising. The Society holds an annual general meeting. For additional information contact Michael McAllister, Project Co-ordinator for the Hamilton-Scourge Project, by sending an e-mail to


Virtual History - Visit the Hamilton Civic Museums to learn more about upcoming special events and exhibitions.

Support provided by the Government of Canada - The archaeology of this site was made possible by the generous support of Parks Canada.

Visiting Ontario - When you plan your trip to Hamilton Civic Museums, see what else Ontario has to offer.