The career of the Soo River Company's newly-acquired PIERSON INDEPENDENT, the former MEAFORD, has come to an unexpected end. The Pierson interests reactivated the 73-year-old steamer during August, but she got off to a less than auspicious start and had more than her share of troubles in the two months that she operated.
Early on the morning of October 28, PIERSON INDEPENDENT rubbed bottom in the St. Lawrence River near the eastern end of Cornwall Island after inexplicably wandering out of the buoyed channel. She took water immediately in Number Six ballast tank on the port side aft and was intentionally beached close inshore at Long Beach, Ontario, a few miles west of Brockville. Several McAllister tugs attended at the scene immediately, including the big DANIEL McALLISTER. The barge MAPLEHEATH was summoned and she lightered a portion of the steamer's cargo of 11,500 tons of corn into E. J. NEWBERRY, this part of the cargo being then taken to Prescott. Finally, on the morning of October 31, PIERSON INDEPENDENT was freed and then towed a short distance upriver so that temporary repairs might be made. The INDEPENDENT then continued downriver en route to her original destination of Trois-Rivieres, Quebec.
Unfortunately, however, her troubles were not yet at an end, for she suffered a fire in her third cargo hold while in the Snell Lock of the Seaway. The fire is believed to have been of electrical origin but may have been accelerated by wetness in the corn cargo. Corn can be very dangerous if it gets damp, for then it heats up very quickly and spontaneous combustion can take place. As electrical communications with the forward end of the steamer were knocked out by the fire, she was towed downriver and finally arrived at Trois-Rivieres. Once the unloading operation was begun, however, it was ascertained that water had indeed entered the cargo holds and most of the corn was ruined. PIERSON INDEPENDENT then headed back upriver under her own power to Montreal and there the remainder of the cargo was unloaded for use as feed. PIERSON INDEPENDENT arrived at Port Weller under her own steam on November 11 and, the following day, was put on drydock in the shipyard. As the water level in the drydock dropped, it could immediately be seen how severely the old steamer was damaged.
It was ascertained that there was extensive injury not only to the bottom of the vessel but also to the port side plating and the gash was so deep that it penetrated right through into her holds. Steam was immediately dropped and her crew paid off. The tug G. W. ROGERS arrived at Port Weller on November 14 and towed PIERSON INDEPENDENT to Hamilton. She has not yet been sold but it is anticipated that she will probably be dismantled at Strathearne Terminals. Thus endeth the brief return to service of one of the most handsome vessels on the Great Lakes.
The Canada Steamship Lines self-unloader J. W. McGIFFIN paid a rare visit to Toronto Harbour on November 12, discharging a cargo of coal at the Richard L. Hearn generating plant. This Hydro facility was converted to burn gas a few years ago and now keeps a stockpile of coal for standby purposes only. The McGIFFIN was not originally scheduled to unload here, but rather at the Lakeview generating plant. Downbound in the Welland Canal on November 10, McGIFFIN sustained considerable damage when she sheered over into the west bank of the canal above Thorold after Bridge 10 suffered a power failure and failed to open for her. She ruptured her Number Five sidetank and took on sufficient water that her crew had a difficult time getting her down the canal, her draft being too great for the lock sills with that much water in her. She made it safely down the canal and set out on a course for Lakeview but had to be diverted to Toronto as a result of the unexpected closure of the Lakeview plant. The big Hydro generating facility lies on the southern edge of the City of Mississauga and, as most of North America will be aware, virtually the entire city was evacuated for the better part of a week because of the November 10 derailment and explosion of a train of railroad cars loaded with all sorts of noxious chemicals. McGIFFIN was drydocked at Port Weller for repairs after unloading her cargo at the Hearn plant.
This has not been a particularly good year for the vessels of Jadroplov, the Yugoslavian fleet which operates scheduled line service into the Great Lakes. Its motorvessel MAKARSKA was lost in a summer collision on salt water, and one of her sisters, SPLIT, has managed to get herself into trouble right in Toronto Harbour. On the evening of November 2nd, SPLIT departed her berth at Toronto's Pier 51, near the Eastern Gap, and headed down the ship channel for bunkers. She was assisted in this manoeuvre by the Waterman's Services tug TERRY S. Although the evening was not particularly windy, SPLIT took a sheer just as she was passing under the Cherry Street lift bridge and struck the span a glancing blow with her high flared bow. There was some damage to the ship but the old bridge got the worst of the deal; a sizable chunk was chopped out of its west railing and sidewalk, and one of the main beams was damaged. The bridge was left in the open position after the accident, for it was feared that it might not be possible to raise it again if it were brought down. Repairs were expected to take at least five weeks and all road traffic during that period was forced to take the long way around via the east end of the turning basin.
The small Shell Canada Ltd. tanker ARCTIC TRADER grounded on November 1st in the North Channel of Lake Huron near Strawberry Point, about three miles east of the town of Little Current. Tugs were sent to the scene to pull the ship free and oil-spill equipment was readied as a precaution. Fortunately, however, there was no escape of ARCTIC TRADER's cargo and the damage was not serious. No explanation of the stranding has been given.
We are now able to report further on the October 23 accident which brought the Welland Canal shunter test program to an abrupt end for the 1979 season. Upbound with her two shunters, MARINSAL struck the east wall below Lock Two, damaging herself and the bow shunter. The entire unit was taken to the shipyard at Port Weller for drydocking to remove the leaking forward shunter. On October 24, a welder's torch set fire to an oily rag on the deck of the shunter; the rag was thrown overboard and promptly ignited oil floating on top of the water in the bottom of the drydock. A rather nasty fire ensued but it was extinguished without damage either to MARINSAL or to the shunter.
In the November issue, we mentioned that the shunter test program would incorporate, during 1980, the use of a much larger vessel than MARINSAL in order to work out the details of how the shunters might be attached to the bow and stern of ships being escorted through the canal. The efforts of the St. Lawrence Seaway Authority to charter the large salty FEDERAL CLYDE for this purpose have not met with success and the S.L.S.A. is now arranging to charter a certain large laker instead. We hope that we will be able to report more on these arrangements in the near future.
The last trip of BLACK RIVER, mentioned in these pages last month, was not without excitement. On October 22, upbound in the Welland Canal and midway between Bridges 10 (Thorold South) and 11 (Allanburg), the venerable motorship suffered a loss of power in her main engine. The Seaway Authority alerted and held back all nearby traffic as a precaution against collision. Some two minutes later, BLACK RIVER was able to continue at half speed. Full speed was regained when the ship was in the area of Bridge 11 after a piece of rope had been secured to her camshaft! This makeshift repair held long enough that BLACK RIVER could report herself secured in the Marine Salvage Ltd. scrapyard at Ramey's Bend at 1535 hours on October 22, 1979, her career apparently at an end.
BLACK RIVER's new owner wasted little time in coming to the conclusion that the hull was fit for further service, even considering its advanced age. In very short order, the 1896-built former barge was sold to the Cayman Shipping Corporation, P.O. Box 309, Georgetown, Grand Cayman, and was re-registered in Panama under the name (d) TUXPANCLIFFE. A crew arrived on November 11 to begin fitting out the ship and it is to be assumed that the piece of rope on the camshaft was replaced by a more orthodox repair. It was hoped that TUXPANCLIFFE would be able to get under way before the end of that week, but she did not clear her fit-out berth at the old Law Stone dock in Humberstone until November 22. We are indeed pleased to know that BLACK RIVER has a few more years of life ahead of her, although we would have been happier to see her remain in operation on the lakes. Watching her leave for a new career in the Caribbean is, however, infinitely preferable to seeing her dismantled at Ramey's Bend.
All summer long, the Quebec and Ontario Transportation Company Ltd. steamer HELEN EVANS lay on the south side of the Leslie Street slip in the Toronto turning basin, her operating life apparently at an end. Scrap bids were called for her in September and it was anticipated that she would shortly be hauled off for dismantling, probably at Hamilton. Instead, on November 1, HELEN EVANS was towed around to Victory Mills and loaded with a storage cargo of soya beans. The loading was completed over the following weekend and, early on November 5, EVANS was moved to a position across the end of Polson Street, it being evident that she will spend the winter there. Meanwhile, there have been suggestions that Victory Soya Mills Ltd. would like to purchase a lake freighter for storage purposes, the company's facilities at the foot of Parliament Street being incapable of handling all of the soya beans which are shipped to the elevator by boat and by truck. It is entirely possible that HELEN EVANS may be just what Victory Mills is looking for, and that she may find a permanent home here at Toronto.
In the November issue, we mentioned that SEAWAY TRADER, (a) IMPERIAL COLLINGWOOD (79), had made a surprise visit to Toronto. Since then, she has been trading regularly on Lake Ontario, hauling many cargoes of furnace oil between Toronto and Kingston. It seems that her new owner may have reconsidered its earlier intention to operate the steam tanker on the east coast. For the benefit of those who keep records of such information, we should mention that SEAWAY TRADER is being operated by Shediac Bulk Shipping Ltd. of Moncton, New Brunswick, a firm managed by one Alonzo Landry.
SEAWAY TRADER's sistership, TEGUCIGALPA, (a) IMPERIAL LONDON (78), has also been much in the news recently. It will be recalled that this vessel was purchased by Honduran operators and, after much delay, she began fitting out during the latter part of 1978 for service in the Caribbean area. The Hondurans, however, seemed perpetually to be labouring under a severe shortage of folding green (or whatever colour Honduras banknotes are) and it became evident during 1979 that TEGUCIGALPA was going nowhere fast. It was feared that she would wind up on the scrap pile after she was repossessed by Marine Salvage Ltd. but, happily, this will not now be the case. She has been purchased by an affiliate of Ship Repairs and Supplies Ltd., Toronto, which presently is operating SECOLA, and will be refurbished for further service. She was towed into Toronto on November 14 by STORMONT and ARGUE MARTIN and is presently lying on the west wall of the turning basin. It was originally suggested that the steam tanker would operate during the coming winter on the Canadian east coast, but this would now appear to be unlikely. We have no word on a new name for TEGUCIGALPA.
The old forward end of ST. LAWRENCE NAVIGATOR was floated out of the drydock at Port Weller on October 21 and was secured alongside CANADIAN ENTERPRISE at the fit-out berth. Owned by the Newman Steel interests of St. Catharines, the severed bow section, known locally as "NEWMAN HULL", was towed up the Welland Canal on November 12 by the McKeil tugs STORMONT, ARGUE MARTIN and GLENSIDE. Its destination was Port Maitland, where it will be dismantled. ST. LAWRENCE NAVIGATOR will be refashioned this winter into a maximum-sized laker and will emerge from the yard in the spring as (c) CANADIAN NAVIGATOR.
As work progresses on the completion of Port Weller Dry Docks Ltd. Hull 65, the new self-unloader CANADIAN ENTERPRISE, and on HULL 66, the rebuilding of ST. LAWRENCE NAVIGATOR, word comes that the shipyard has yet another contract from Upper Lakes Shipping Ltd. The yard's Hull 67 will be a self-unloader designed for deep-sea service, built to maximum canal dimensions, and scheduled for delivery in September 1981. She is to feature the same hull shape aft as CANADIAN ENTERPRISE, a configuration of the bottom intended to obtain greater thrust from a smaller engine than might otherwise be required to push such a large vessel.
The 1,000-foot self-unloader INDIANA HARBOR, owned by the American Steamship Company and operating for the Inland Steel Company since her commissioning in August, passed down through the Soo Canal early on October 16 and then anchored in the lower harbour for ballast adjustments. Somehow, she managed to run over one of her own bow anchors and punched a hole, two feet by three, in her bottom about twelve feet back from the bow. She was moved to an anchorage in Lake Nicolet, lightered, and then proceeded under her own power to her destination, Indiana Harbor, where she unloaded her cargo of taconite pellets.
In our last issue, we mentioned that the remains of WYCHEM 105, the former SAMUEL F. B. MORSE, had entered drydock at Sturgeon Bay for a further rebuilding. We have since learned that her hull has now been cut into two 72-foot barges by Bay Shipbuilding, although we do not know what will be done with these pieces of equipment. Although she will still be serving a useful purpose (of sorts), this is a sad comedown for the MORSE, once one of the most majestic freighters on the lakes. Built in 1898 by F. W. Wheeler and Company at West Bay City, Michigan (see the quiz elsewhere in this issue), she was a near-sister of DOUGLASS HOUGHTON and originally carried two tall stacks in tandem. Built for the Bessemer Steamship Company, she sailed for the Pittsburgh Steamship Company (United States Steel) through the 1953 season and was then sold to the Wyandotte Transportation Company for use as a barge. She saw little use and then languished for many years in the Roen boneyard at Sturgeon Bay. Her triple-deck forward cabin lay for many years in the Roen yard and may, in fact, still be there.
FORT HENRY has been operating regularly since her unexpected reactivation this autumn. Placed back in service to aid in the movement of unusually heavy package freight shipments and to assist during the absence of FORT WILLIAM, which was sent to the shipyard at Thunder Bay after her collision with the Detroit River Light, FORT HENRY departed her lay-up berth at Kingston on October 22 and was upbound in the Welland Canal on October 24.
It has been suggested that Bay Shipbuilding Corporation's Hull 723 may be christened CHICAGO by the American Steamship Company (Boland and Cornelius). Apart from boats with compound names, such as CHICAGO TRADER, CHICAGO TRIBUNE and CHICAGO SOCONY, there has not been a major lake vessel bearing the name of the Lake Michigan city itself since the Great Lakes Transit Corporation's package freighter CHICAGO was lost by stranding back in 1929.
With the loss of PIERSON INDEPENDENT, the Soo River Company has been seeking replacement tonnage. Despite other rumours (which may themselves be more truth than fiction), it now seems evident that Pierson is in the act of completing a deal with Kinsman for the purchase of GEORGE D. GOBLE, a vessel which was, earlier this year, said to be nearing the end of her career in Steinbrenner colours. We understand that GOBLE will soon be making her way to an unspecified Canadian port for winter lay-up and for certain much-needed work. GOBLE, a 588-foot, 1924-built product of the Toledo Shipbuilding Company, should look very good in Soo River colours.
It was only a bit more than two weeks after the accident to PIERSON INDEPENDENT that another laker got into trouble in the same stretch of the St. Lawrence River. At 6:33 p.m. on Tuesday, November 13. the Paterson bulk carrier VANDOC (II), (a) SIR DENYS LOWSON (79), en route from Port Colborne to Baie Comeau with 13,000 tons of grain, ran hard aground on Harvey Island in the Brockville Narrows, some six kilometres west of Brockville. VANDOC did not obstruct the shipping channel but, although she was about 500 feet out from shore, her stem was lodged squarely against the rocky edge of the island. She punched two holes in her bow during the accident and, as she was making water forward, her engine was kept turning over slowly to hold her solidly aground. Tugs were dispatched to the scene and the old lighter MAPLEHEATH was called upon to remove part of VANDOC's cargo. The ship was still aground on November 15 but it was expected that she would be refloated shortly. VANDOC, of course, was only purchased by N. M. Paterson and Sons Ltd., Thunder Bay, from Algoma Central Marine in July of this year.
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.