We have received numerous kind comments concerning the feature article of the February issue, Ship of the Month No. 144, the steamer EMPEROR. We are indeed pleased that our members found the piece to be of interest.
Member Bob MacDonald, of Erie, Pennsylvania, sent along some clippings from his file regarding some of the many diving excursions that certain groups have made aboard EMPEROR in recent years. The bow now has some twenty-five feet of water over it, and the hull is broken at Hatch Number Seven, where she split apart on the morning on June 4, 1947, after striking Canoe Rocks off the tip of Isle Royale in Lake Superior. The forward cabins have been scraped away from the hull over the years, but the after cabin is relatively intact, much of its interior being just the way it was before the accident. The stack has fallen over atop the cabin, but the mainmast is still standing, its top some seventy feet below the lake surface.
Capt. John Leonard, who ought to know about such matters because he was a member of EMPEROR's last crew, has enlightened us on the subject of EMPEROR's hatches. We were incorrect when we stated that the steamer carried wooden hatch covers. In fact, she carried telescoping steel "patent" hatch covers, and was the first Canadian laker to be equipped with them. The sections of the hatch covers were linked together with chains underneath, and sometimes, when they were being pulled on or off, they would come apart and fall down into the hold, particularly if the covers were old or bent. Then a winch wire would be fed down and the dropped sections would be hauled back up on deck, the only real difficulty coming when they had to be hauled over the hatch coamings. EMPEROR's hatches, of course, were on twelve-foot centres, whereas later vessels, with twenty-four foot centres, carried much heavier hatch covers with lugs underneath, and this method of construction was successful in eliminating the problem of falling hatch covers.
John also has been able to provide us with additional detail concerning the dunking of EMPEROR's mate, Jack Morey, in Toronto Bay when the steamer was leaving port on her first trip of the 1940 season. During the winter months, the "fence rail" around the open spar deck on the port side had been taken down, and when it was put back in place in the spring, the wire forming the rail was not made properly fast. Morey went down from the bridge to the deck to spot EMPEROR out through the Cherry Street Bridge. He put both of his hands on the rail wire and leaned on it to watch the ship's passage through the bridge draw, and with the wire not secured, Morey soon found himself in the water for an unexpected spring swim. The lifesavers' launch from the city sped to the scene, and Jack Morey was soon fished out of the cold waters of the channel and was placed safely back aboard EMPEROR. It is unfortunate that Morey was not so lucky in June of 1947; he was on watch in the pilothouse when EMPEROR struck Canoe Rocks, and he perished in the accident.
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.