A recent report from the Steamship Historical Society of America indicates that, on April 15, 1984, the tug KODIAK I towed the floating crab processing plant ALASKA SHELL out to sea off Akutan, Alaska, which is located in the Fox Islands area of the Aleutians, and then scuttled her in deep water with the aid of explosive charges. One might well ask why the final voyage of a vessel such as this should be mentioned in these pages, and the answer is that she was built as a passenger steamer for service on the Great Lakes.
ALASKA SHELL was built as Hull 83 of the Craig Shipbuilding Company, Toledo, Ohio. Originally christened IROQUOIS, she was launched on July 15, 1901. She was 213.8 x 34.4 x 21.1, H69 Gross and 795 Net, and was built for the Arnold Transit Company for service from Petoskey and Mackinac Island to Sault Ste. Marie, but she soon proved to be too large for that trade. In 1902, IROQUOIS was chartered to the Singer Transportation Company (the White Line) of Duluth, Minnesota, and she operated on Lake Superior until 1905, when she was chartered to the Dunkley-Williams Company for service between Chicago and South Haven. In 1906, she was down on Lake Ontario, running between Oswego, Kingston and the Thousand Islands. By October of 1906, IROQUOIS was back at Mackinac Island, and she and her earlier near-sister CHIPPEWA (I), which were both hopelessly large for Arnold's requirements, were sold to the Puget Sound Navigation Company, Seattle, Washington, for $250,000. IROQUOIS left Mackinac for the last time on October 12, 1906, sailing for Detroit, and she and CHIPPEWA left the latter port on October 31. both under steam.
They arrived at Montreal on November 3, and IROQUOIS left with CHIPPEWA in tow on November 22, arriving in New York on December 8, 1906. They eventually reached the west coast, where the P.S.N.Co. operated IROQUOIS on a regular route from Vancouver to Bellingham and Seattle. On May 22, 1920, IROQUOIS was sold to the Chicago and South Haven Steamship Company, which took her all the way back to the lakes for service on Lake Michigan. On February 7, 1927, the C.&S.H.S.S.Co. having ceased operations after some forty years IROQUOIS was sold at auction to Robert Barnard, Jr., and on June 6, 1927, he transferred her to the Chicago, Benton Harbor and South Haven Transit Company. The 1927 summer, however, was to be her last on the lakes.
On September 22, 1927, IROQUOIS was reacquired by the Puget Sound Navigation Company, and once more she left the lakes and steamed all the way around to the west coast. She was rebuilt as an auto ferry (1767 Gross, 1202 Net) for the run between Seattle, Port Townsend, Port Angeles and Victoria. She did, however, retain her old triple expansion engine, 21", 34" and 58" x 30". In 1952, she was sold to the Black Ball Transport Inc., Seattle, which converted her to a truck ferry (949 Gross, 533 Net) and repowered her with a ten-cylinder Fairbanks-Morse diesel engine, 8 1/2" x 10".
IROQUOIS (U.S.100730) was sold in 1973 to the Alaska Shell Corporation of Juneau, Alaska, and was converted to a processing plant for crabmeat. She was renamed (b) ALASKA SHELL in 1975, and continued to serve in this unusual service until her owner went into bankruptcy. We have no idea why she was deliberately sunk at sea instead of being sent to a shipbreaker, but perhaps a burial at sea was more suitable for the 83-year-old hull. A photo of her on her last voyage indicates that little except her counter stern remained of the profile that made IROQUOIS such a handsome steamer in her years on
The seventh volume in the "Namesakes" series of books written by member John 0. Greenwood is Namesakes 1920-1929, now available. It features the many interesting ships that operated on the lakes during that decade, but which had passed from the scene by 1930. The book follows the same format as the other "Namesakes" volumes. Interested parties should visit their local bookstore, or contact Freshwater Press Inc., 334 The Arcade, P.O. Box 14009, Cleveland, Ohio 44114-0009, U.S.A.
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.