There was no legislation covering the dangers of shipwreck in the early period. The Act of 1842 stated that from 2-4 lifeboats, depending on the ship's tonnage, must be carried, but such provision was intended for cabin passengers only. [This distinction recalls a newspaper's description of a wreck in which "20 souls & 240 emigrants" were lost.]1 In 1840 the death rate of passengers to Canada was 1.005%, fairly evenly divided between drowning & disease. Between 1847 & 1851 forty British emigrant ships were wrecked, with a loss of 1,043 lives.
- Edwin C. Guillet, The Great Mig., p. 17
One ship [Beaver] Islanders came on was lost on return trip - look this up, I think the Green sisters.
1834 - seventeen vessels were wrecked on the Quebec route. The Quebec Gazette, commenting on the recent shipwreck of half a dozen vessels with a death list of 700 for the 3 worst disasters, suggested rigid regulations to insure the seaworthiness of emigrant vessels, which were quite the worst in the Atlantic service. Those sailing from Ireland were the most defective of all & had frequently to put back to port when only a few days out, having sprung a leak, or lost a mast, or otherwise crippled.
Lifeboat accommodations were commonly provided only for 1st class passengers.
1847-51 - Forty-four passenger vessels out of 7,129 from the British Isles were shipwrecked & 1,0342 lives were lost, with the result that legislation was adopted to aid the destitute. One of the worst disasters was the 320-ton Exmouth, sailing from Londonderry for Quebec with a crew of 11 & 240 emigrants, mostly women & children who hoped to join relatives in Canada. According to law, this vessel was limited to 65 1/2 passengers, but the number was swelled by allowing children to count as half an adult or less. In 1841 the 290-ton Minstrel wrecked between Limerick & Quebec, only 4 out of 141 emigrants being saved. Another notable Irish wreck occurred in the late fall of 1850. In spite of the season, the Edmund sailed from Carrigaholt on the Shannon with 207 emigrants. In spite of the heroic conduct of the captain & crew, 96 lives were lost when she foundered off the Irish coast in a storm. On some other ships the conduct of the captains & crews was lamentable. On the John, wrecked off the English coast, not a seaman perished & Captain Rawle was arrested & a verdict of manslaughter was returned against him.
- E. C. Guillet, The Great Migration, p. 128-30
2 In a duplicate entry this number of lives lost is listed as 1,043.