It is unpleasant work reporting casualties, especially when loss of life is involved, but it is part of our job. On the morning of June 24, fire broke out in the stern section of the almost-completed ROGER BLOUGH lying at the Lorain yard of the American Shipbuilding Co. Fed by bunker oil placed in the vessel in preparation for her sea trials, the fire burned well into the next day before it could be completely extinguished in the cramped machinery spaces. Four shipyard workers were killed in the blaze and severe damage was caused to the ship's engines and plating. A lengthy period of reconstruction will be required before the BLOUGH can once again be readied for her entry into lake service and her debut will not likely occur before 1972. It is interesting to note that one of our members, John Vournakis of Sault Ste. Marie, had been assigned to the new vessel as watchman.
Three more units of the American lake fleet will be modernized according to a recent announcement by the Columbia Transportation Div., Oglebay Norton & Co. The flagship EDMUND FITZGERALD as well as the ASHLAND and FRANK PURNELL will be converted from coal to oil fuel and the latter will also receive deck strapping designed to increase her draft. Work on the first two will be done by Fraser Shipyards, Superior, while the PURNELL will get the treatment at Cleveland.
Several lake carriers, listed as idle at the beginning of the navigation season, have now returned to service, FRENCH RIVER was fitted out in May by Canada Steamship Lines and the Kinsman Marine Transit Co. has brought out KINSMAN VOYAGER. In addition, A. E. NETTLETON of the Wilson fleet has entered service as a barge under charter to the Escanaba Towing Co. and is being pulled by the tug LEE REUBEN, brought into the lakes from the coast early in the spring. A towing rig made to fit the bow of the tug has been placed on the NETTLETON's stern. No changes were made to the steamer other than the removal of her propeller, in case her owners should decide to reactivate her as a self-propelled unit. The vessel was drydocked and inspected at Port Weller and passed back up the Welland Canal on May 29.
The sale of the third veteran Republic Steel steamer to the Kinsman fleet was made final in May when ownership of SILVER BAY was transferred. She was placed on drydock at Lorain where a large number of bow plates were replaced.
One of the better known salt water vessels trading into the lakes, the TRANSPACIFIC, operated by Poseidon Linien on its liner service for a number of years, became a total loss by stranding on May 17. Bound out from the lakes, the vessel grounded on the island of St. Pierre, a French possession on the Canadian east coast, and was abandoned on May 24 after being pounded by heavy swells. TRANSPACIFIC, with a length of 387 feet, was built in 1954 by Lubecker Flenderwerke A.G., Lubeck, and was a sister of TRANSATLANTIC, severely damaged by collision and fire in the North Atlantic several years ago, and subsequently scrapped at Sorel. Loss of the TRANSPACIFIC leaves POSEIDON herself as the sole remaining conventionally constructed unit of the fleet trading to the Great Lakes.
The Bethlehem Steel Corp. has announced that a new stack marking will be adopted for its lake fleet. The stacks will be black with a buff band similar to the colour now used for the lower portions of the funnels. Above and below the band will be a narrow white band and superimposed on the buff section will be the Bethlehem insignia, a white hexagon and a black I-beam. STEWART J. CORT will carry the new colours this season, but other units of the fleet will not be altered until next winter.
The fish-processing barge ZENAVA caught fire and foundered on April 28 off Newfoundland's Burin Peninsula, while under tow. Owned by Fishery Products Ltd., St. John's, Newfoundland, the vessel had been used for the better part of a decade at various ports around the Island province, but was better known to lake fans in her former role as REDFERN, one of the canal-sized "Red Barges" operated latterly by the Beaconsfield Steamship Co. Her loss was attributed to striking a reef, but we wonder why her tugs would take her near shoal water and how her fish became inflammable. ......
The veteran Canadian self-unloader STONEFAX of the Hall Corporation was sold late in May to United Metals of Hamilton. Resold almost immediately to European scrappers, she was towed from Hamilton on May 28 by the tugs SALVAGE MONARCH and DANIEL McALLISTER. At Quebec, she was taken over by the Polish tug JANTAR and cleared on May 31 in tandem with ALEXANDER LESLIE, the latter steamer having lain at Quebec since her retirement in December 1969.
In an effort to avoid another ice situation such as that which developed on the lakes this spring, the U.S. Coast Guard has announced that the polar icebreaker EDISTO will come up the Seaway this autumn and will be permanently based during the winter months at Milwaukee. The vessel will return to salt water each summer for duty elsewhere.
On June 28, WESTERN SHELL was towed from the Toronto Ship Channel by the Port Colborne tug HERBERT A. Although we had been given to understand that the tanker would be operating under her own power, she was, at last report, being towed about the St. Clair and Detroit Rivers by HERBERT A., the steamer having been renamed ALFRED CYTACKI for her new duties.
In our last issue, we reported that GROVEDALE had reached the end of her operating career and that she would soon be sold for scrap. On June 30, the tugs LAC MANITOBA and ARGUE MARTIN came down from Hamilton and towed the old steamer out of Toronto via the Eastern Gap, depositing her at Hamilton where she now awaits her fate. It is to be assumed that she will be towed overseas.
Speaking of Hamilton, the wrecking crews there disposed of the remains of RIVERSHELL and BAYGEORGE during the spring and early summer. This means that the backlog of work at the United Metals yard has now disappeared.
It has been reported that the former Halifax bunkering barge I.O.L. BARGE 6 has been sold to Dartmouth Salvage Ltd. for scrapping. This venerable tanker, which at one time served on the lakes, was replaced recently by the IMPERIAL CORNWALL which was herself replaced at the end of last year by the newly-built IMPERIAL DARTMOUTH.
During the month of June, IMPERIAL CORNWALL was sold by Imperial Oil Ltd. to Penn Shipping Ltd., Toronto, a firm headed by one Robert Penn, Guelph. She operated for a short time under her old name but was soon renamed GOLDEN SABLE. By early July, however, the operation of the canal-sized tanker ground to a halt as a result of a writ of seizure, issued on behalf of the ship's crew, and claiming back wages in the amount of $15,162.14. Most of the crew returned to Halifax, but several men remained aboard the tanker which was anchored in Montreal harbour. Hardly an auspicious start for a new service.....
It seems that U.S. Steel Corp. is still considering a move of its operating headquarters, Great Lakes Fleet, from Cleveland to Duluth. The transfer has been rumoured for a number of years and some estimate that it nay now take place as early as this autumn.
In our April issue, we included in the excerpts from D.O.T. reports the notation that the new C.P.R, ferry for the Bay of Fundy service had been named PRINCESS OF NEW NOVA. This was such a strange name that many of us doubted its authenticity. We have now seen photos of the new vessel, now in service, and it is evident that she was christened PRINCESS OF ACADIA (II). The previous vessel on the run, PRINCESS OF ACADIA (I), has now reverted to her previous name, PRINCESS OF NANAIMO, under which she operated on the west coast, and is currently laid up at Saint John, N. B. At one time, it had been rumoured that she would be brought to the lakes for the Tobermory-South Bay Mouth ferry service of the Owen Sound Transportation Co., but nothing has ever come of this suggestion.
Several lake fleets are known to be in the market for new tonnage, among them being the Cleveland-Cliffs Steamship Co., which will soon be hauling the ore for Republic Steel, and the Inland Steel Co. which has been receiving help by means of additional tonnage from the Escanaba Towing Co. Nothing definite has been forthcoming from any of the operators involved, but there is a possibility that Inland may get CHARLES M. BEEGHLY next year from Interlake and that HARRY COULBY nay go to Cliffs from the same fleet. This will bear watching.
The struggle by Michigan residents and officials to keep the veteran steam carferry CHIEF WAWATAM operating on the Straits of Mackinac rail service continued. The latest disagreement came over whether the service would be maintained by tug and barge during the drydocking of the regular steamer which had been scheduled for July. The Mackinac Transportation Co. had reportedly been anxious to discontinue service during the period, but a ruling by a U. S. District Judge prevented this course of action.
The U.S. Post Office decided earlier this year to maintain the Detroit River Postal Station, operated by the mail boat J. W. WESCOTT. The service had been scheduled to cease on June 30 due to its cost, but pressure from a number of politicians brought the Post Office to reconsider the abandonment.
From salt water sources comes word that the Moore-McCormack passenger liners ARGENTINA and BRASIL, built in 1958, have been sold to The Holland America Line subject to the approval of the U.S. Government. In keeping with the current trend in American passenger operations, both ships have laid up since 1969. We understand that disapproval of the sale has been voiced by U.S. maritime unions which would rather see the ships laid up under American registry than operating under a foreign flag and manned by foreign crews! As a result of this purchase, one of the orders for new tonnage recently placed by Holland America has been cancelled and only one new ship will be constructed.
The Norwegian American Line has sold its 1956-built BERGENSFJORD to the French Line to replace ANTILLES, lost recently by stranding and fire. BERGENSFJORD will make her last trip for her old owners in September and will then take up Caribbean cruising for the C.G.T.
At Trieste, reconstruction is progressing on FAIRWIND and FAIRLAND, the former Cunard liners CARINTHIA and SYLVANIA. now owned by Sitmar Line, They will be completely unrecognizable when conversion work is finished. The latter ship will be renamed FAIRSEA for the Los Angeles to Australia service.
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.