Samuel Côté – Shipwreck hunting in Canada


By Pierre Kosmidis

Samuel Côté is a Canadian shipwreck hunter, who focuses on enriching the maritime history of Canada. He has located or identified many historic shipwrecks and always approaches them with respect to their history.

Here is what Mr. Côté has to say:

Describe your project. What is your purpose?
Here is our mission:

We gather a maximum of information on shipwrecks in the Bas-Saint-Laurent to enrich the knowledge of Quebec’s maritime history.

We validate our historical field data from the archives for the purpose of locating and identifying new wrecks.
We identify and document the wrecks observing the underwater remains in situ.
We disseminate our knowledge: publications, websites, conferences, television series etc.

We collaborate in the organization of ceremonies for the victims and survivors of shipwrecks.

We try to raise awareness and sensitise divers and the general public of the need to protect and preserve underwater ruins with a message to divers:

“Take pictures, leave only bubbles.”
How many years have you been looking for wrecks?
I became interested in wrecks in 2005.

With perseverance and determination, I have been able to build an extensive network of partners and collaborators worldwide. I also managed to bring with it a team of divers to accompany me in this adventure.

I identified a few wrecks and documented several shipwrecks around Québec. I developed a proven methodology of work after my past experiences.

After intense research in primary sources, analyses, audits and historical data matches, I manage to document, identify and locate new wrecks. My approach is based on an impressive number of original documents, mainly from government sources.

Tell us the story of a wreck that moved you the most.

Manseau sank on September 30, 1966 during a storm, upstream of the Pierre Laporte Bridge in Quebec, killing ten sailors. The wreck was discovered by the Canadian Hydrographic Service in 2010.

At the request of the Captain’s son, I have formally identified the wreck in 2012. I also started a memorial ceremony for the victims of the sinking of the Manseau dredge celebrated on the Jacques-Cartier beach in Quebec. The survivors of the shipwreck and the families of victims were there too.

International Cooperation: Do you work with other researchers?

No. If ever the opportunity arises, I would accept to work with another wreck hunter. Especially as my researcher training and historian would be very useful, because most salvagers practice scuba diving, but do not have a background in history.

The hunters of wrecks that do it for the right reasons are rare. Unfortunately, the wrecks also attract treasure hunters.

They engage in a systematic looting of this underwater heritage for commercial purposes.

Why did you start to look for shipwrecks? What was your stimulus?

At the age of 6, I found an arrowhead in the sand. In 2005, I visited the archaeologists were searching a site in Price (my hometown) to identify traces of Amerindian presence in the area.

I then showed my arrowhead to the site manager. The latter told me that my arrowhead was  2500 years old. This unexpected finding is the source of my passion for history.

Then, during my childhood, I spent my summers at the family cottage in Grand-Métis, facing the St. Lawrence River.

This is where I developed a great fascination for the history of the St. Lawrence River are discovering the presence of the wreck of Carolus, from the Second World War.

As a teenager, I spent a lot of time and energy to my collection of data on wrecks.

This is the story behind the wreckage that interests me.

What is the largest wreck you found?

The wreck of the brig Scotsman (1846). This is the oldest known wreck currently in Bas-Saint-Laurent.

After several years of investigation, I managed to identify the wreck of the Scotsman located off Bic.

Built in 1834, the Scotsman measures 83 feet long. Built by John Duncanson, Scotland, a key figure representing the bust of a man decorates his bow.

During her career the Scotsman, visited many ports including New York, Rio de Janeiro, Glasgow, Liverpool, Montreal, and the Leith district, the port of the Scottish city of Edinburgh.

On November 20, 1846 while sailing from Montreal to Liverpool with a general cargo, the Scotsman is beset by a storm.

Commanded by Captain James Jameson, it hits rocks located near Bic Island, then drifts before sinking.

Only one of the nine crew members survived and was rescued by residents of Rimouski in the morning.