The siege of Québec in 1690 was one of the most important events in the history of New France. It pitted Frontenac, representative of Louis XIV in America and one of the most colourful figures of the period, against Phips, a sailor and famous adventurer from New England in the service of the British Crown. The Anse aux Bouleaux shipwreck offers tangible, eloquent testimony to this event, which took place during the colonial wars between New France and New England.
According to historian Emerson W. Baker, the Massachusetts General Court approved a military expedition to Québec City after the successful campaign against Port Royal in Acadia. Phips and the General Court called for volunteers throughout the New England colony, particularly in the towns of Dorchester and Roxbury. However, they had trouble finding enough militiamen. Compulsory enrolment in several towns made it possible to mobilize an additional force of 308 men. Phips set sail from the port of Nantasket in Boston on August 10, 1690. The contingent had nearly 2,000 members, including about 50 Amerindians from the colony of Plymouth. Of the 32 ships that came to attack Québec City, only 5 or 6, including the flagship Six Friends, were actually warships. Most of the others, which had been requisitioned specially for the expedition, were merchant or fishing vessels.
Wrecks from this period are very rare. The oldest identified to date in Canadian waters are those of Red Bay, Labrador, which date to the mid-16th century and are of Basque origin. The Anse aux Bouleaux shipwreck (1690) is probably the oldest known in Québec. The second oldest is the Corrosol, a vessel of the King of France, which sank in the bay of Sept-Îles in 1693, followed by the ships from Walker's fleet, which ran aground at Île aux Oeufs near Pointe-aux-Anglais in 1711.
The Anse aux Bouleaux shipwreck has several characteristics of tremendous historical and archaeological importance. In addition to being the oldest wreck in Québec, it is a source of extremely valuable data on 17th-century shipbuilding in America. The artifact collection is also surprisingly rich, not in terms of its market value, but for the information its provides on lifeways during this period and on the expedition itself.