Carnochan, J. 1986. Shipwrecked on Sable Island 1879. Edited by John L. Field. Niagara Historical Society, Pamphlet No.44, 26 pages.

Note (ZL): The Niagara Historical Society was founded in 1895 by a group of fifteen citizens. Among them was Janet Carnochan, a local high school teacher, who served as President of the Society for its first 30 years. Some fifteen years before the NHS was established, Carnochan had been a passenger on the steamer State of Virginia when it ran aground at Sable Island. It was July 1879 and Carnochan had been en route to Europe (a trip she resumed not long after spending a week as a shipwreck survivor at the humane establishment on the island). She wrote an account of the experience, describing the rescue of some passengers and crew, and the loss of others. Her observations range from “the task of performing the last sad offices for the two bodies washed ashore” to an explanation of the function of the curious beached objects then (and now) called devil’s pocketbook or mermaiden’s purse (skates’ egg cases*). Carnochan’s encounter with Sable, however, was not published as one of the NHS pamphlets during her lifetime. As Nancy Butler writes in the introduction to the 1986 publication: “Perhaps she did not think the subject relevant for a society dedicated to preserving the history of the Niagara area. More likely her innate modesty may have made her feel that the story was personal rather than historical.”

* An egg case (or egg capsule) is a casing that surrounds the fertilized eggs of some species of sharks, skates, and chimaeras. They are made of strands of collagen protein.