When the St. Lawrence Seaway project is opened to shipping, a type of ship, long familiar on the St. Lawrence River and in the Great Lakes, to all intents and purposes, will become obsolete. There are presently in existence about 180 Canadian registered St. Lawrence River canal vessels or "Canallers" as they are familiarly known from the Gulf of St. Lawrence to the Head of the Lakes, and the history and development of this type of ship are closely related to the development of Canada.
It is, therefore, appropriate on the eve of their relegation to a minor from a major role in Canadian shipping that a survey of these interesting vessels should be made. The specialized type of ship known as the "Canaller" is, of course, the result of the difficult geographical features of the St. Lawrence River and the limitations of the canals built to overcome these difficulties and the first part of this paper will deal with the development of these canals and the corresponding types of vessels leading to the emergence of the present day "full" Canaller.
When Jacques Cartier was exploring the St. Lawrence in 1535, he arrived on what is now the Island of Montreal after more than 1000 miles of fairly easy river navigation which, he believed, would eventually lead him to the middle of the then newly discovered continent. His hopes suffered a setback however, when he climbed Mount Royal and saw the Lachine Rapids blocking his path to the west.
These rapids are the first of a series between Montreal and Lake Ontario which have seriously hindered navigation ever since the days of Jacques Cartier and although a succession of canals has been built over the past 270 years the rapids will not be completely overcome until the Seaway is opened.
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This paper was presented at a meeting of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers and is reproduced with permission.