WALES: Canada lays claim to Rhyl's wreckage.
A CANADIAN councillor is laying claim to artefacts from the wreck of a sailing ship submerged off the North Wales coast.
The remains of the City of Ottawa, a 147-year-old wooden sailing ship, have lain in Rhyl's Foryd harbour since being abandoned around 100 years ago.
Only a few pieces of timber are now visible and the authorities are anxious to remove the wreck as part of a major regeneration of the harbour.
Now Rainer Bloess says that mementoes of the vessel, which was built in Quebec in 1860, should be returned to Ottawa. It is thought that the wood used in its construction came from the pine forest in Ottawa Valley.
He is to write to the city clerk and to Richard Gimblett, president of the Canadian Nautical Research Society, to lay claim to some of the remains.
The City of Ottawa, a three-masted vessel with square rigging, was built in 1860 and between 1863 and 1889 travelled around the world, visiting places such as Bombay, Genoa, Aden, Canada and Rio de Janeiro.
The ship was brought to Rhyl in 1906 and very soon afterwards was abandoned after being damaged in a storm. It is rumoured that 200 tons of timber remain on the harbour bed.
Bangor-based marine archaeologist Mike Bowyer said the Ottawa was the last example of the Quebec-built boats which played a major part in the Canadian economy in the 19th century.
"As such, it is of huge historical significance and of great interest to students of both Canadian history and maritime history worldwide," he said.
Quebec city historian Eileen Marcil, the leading authority on Canadian shipbuilding in the 1800s and author of the definitive study of the industry, supports the campaign for at least part of the vessels to be returned.
She said: "It's the only chance we have of having something to look at that is reminiscent of that time.
"At the time, these ships were so darned commonplace nobody thought to preserve any. All of a sudden they were gone and we have so little to remind us."
Paul Smith, manager of Rhyl Going Forward, the partnership involved in the regeneration of West Rhyl, said they appreciated that the Ottawa was important to Canadian history, and Mr Bowyer said he hoped that further funding would be found to enable a full salvaging to take place and for some artefacts tobe exhibited in Canada.
Mr Gimblett commented: "Of all the ships that might have been found, what a wonderful example of that period.
"The fact that it was named to commemorate the new Canadian capital is just incredible."
The submerged City of Ottawa at Rhyl Harbour. The ship (inset) was built by Jean Elie Gingras in 1860