CM November 24, 1995. Vol. II, Number 6

image Ghosts of the Bay: A Guide to the History of Georgian Bay.
Ghosts of the Bay: The Forgotten History of Georgian Bay.

Russel Floren and Andrea Gutsche.
Toronto: Lynx Images, 1994.
Book: 303pp, paper, $29.95. Video: 90 Minutes, VHS, $29.95.
Book and Video set $49.95.
ISBN (Book) 0-9698427-3-2.
(Video) 0-9698427-1-6.

Subject Heading:
Georgian Bay (Ont.)-History.

Grades 8 and up / Ages 13 and up.
Review by Tom Chambers.


A large Iroquois war party swooped down on the tiny mission, which fought valiantly for almost a full day. But strength in numbers prevailed, and soon most of the Huron were dead or captured. The victorious Iroquois had also captured two Black Robes: Jean de Brebeuf and Lalement's nephew, Gabriel Lalement. The two were put to death in the most torturous manner, according to donne Christopher Renault, who helped bring the bodies from St. Ignace to Ste. Marie. The Jesuits were stripped of their flesh, "baptised" with boiling water, their lips cut off to stop them from praying, and finally, their hearts cut out and eaten; an honourable death, according to the Iroquois, one that befit such powerful men.

image Ghosts of the Bay, the book, comes with a ninety-minute video of the same name, though they have different sub-titles. The book is described as a "story telling guide." It is highly detailed, has numerous maps, and is meant to help people discover for themselves the exciting history of Georgian Bay as they travel around this beautiful part of Ontario. The book is also richly illustrated with many photographs of the buildings, ships, and people mentioned. The video complements the book with some interesting underwater footage of shipwrecks and of some of the few remaining abandoned buildings. Both the book and the video are capable of standing on their own.


The tragedy that befell the Huron Indians at the hands of the Iroquois in the middle of the seventeenth century is retold at the start of the book. Although well known, the authors bring the story to life. This should stimulate an interest in early Canadian history in younger readers.


The authors fell in love with Georgian Bay as children and seem to know every rock and cranny in what they describe as the sixth great lake. They spent four years doing the research for this project and the results are worth it. We learn the origins and history of the communities around the bay, and hear tales of the many shipwrecks which enterprising divers are invited to search for. There are also the stories of many of the interesting characters who became part of the bay's history.
There is both humour and tragedy in the book. An example of the former is a tale of life in a lumber shanty where men had no female companionship for months on end. In one camp, a practical joker bought a pair of women's shoes and while everyone else was asleep, walked around the camp leaving marks in the snow. In the morning, the desperate men went searching in vain, much to the joker's amusement. Many of the tragedies concern shipwrecks, like the Asia, a steamer used for both passengers and freight that sank in a hurricane in 1882. Of the 122 people on board, only 2 survived.


Both the tape and the book explain how the bay was created by the last ice age. This adds to their educational value. They also emphasize how the power of nature has shaped the history of the bay. The force of the storms coming from Lake Huron can be devastating. The video shows evidence of this in the underwater scenes of some of the wrecks. The soundtrack on the video helps to convey the sense of mystery the producers feel the bay possesses.

The book has both an index and a bibliography. The lay-out is excellent and the type very easy to read.

Highly recommended.

Tom Chambers is a professor at Canadore College in North Bay Ontario.

Copyright © 1995 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364

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