In the May issue, we featured as our Ship of the Month No. 138 the canaller SANDLAND. That history ended with a question, in that we were seeking information as to the vessel's final disposition after she passed in the early 1970s to the ownership of I. A. Diaques y Astilleras Nacionales, of Puerto Cabello, Venezuela.
Yet another question raised in our feature concerned the date of SANDLAND's repowering with diesel machinery in the 1950s. We mentioned that the American Bureau of Shipping Record indicated that, while under the ownership of Beaconsfield Steamships Ltd., Montreal, SANDLAND was repowered with a diesel engine in May of 1953, but that we believed that the repowering had actually been done during the spring of 1954. Member Dan McCormick, of Massena, New York, has confirmed that the repowering and rebuilding of SANDLAND's after cabin was done at Bingley's Drydock at Cornwall, Ontario, in April of 1954, and he has provided photographs that verify the date. Apparently, her old steam machinery had deteriorated to the point that she was only able to make a speed of six or seven miles per hour, and it was deemed necessary to put a new power plant in her if she were to be kept in service even as long as the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1959, at which time the canallers would become obsolete.
Member George Ayoub, of Ottawa, has been able to provide additional information concerning the registry of SANDLAND. Her original port of registry was Newcastle, England, where she was enrolled at the time of her construction in 1925. She was re-registered at St. John's, Newfoundland, in 1943 for her wartime coastal newsprint service, and her port of registry was changed to Montreal in 1948, two years after her return to lake service. She was reregistered at Nassau, N.P., in 196l, when she was sold foreign, her Canadian registry having been closed on October 16, 1961. When she was given her last name, (b) TRITON, in 1963 (not 1966 as we had reported), she was re-registered at Puerto Cabello, Venezuela.
George has also been able to confirm that SANDLAND ran her trials on July 16, 1925. off the mouth of the River Tyne. Her delivery voyage to Canada took 19 days and SANDLAND arrived at Toronto for the first time on August 15, 1925.
George has also noted several inconsistencies in the manner in which Lloyd's and the American Bureau have reported the final stage of SANDLAND's career. The A.B.S., from 1964 (the ownership change was in 1963) through 1985, reported that TRITON was owned by Sociedad Anonima Venezolana de Empresas Maritimas, of Puerto Cabello. That firm did own the ship when she was first put in Venezuelan registry, but it appears that the A.B.S. has maintained that listing ever since as a result of never being notified of any change. Lloyd's, however, showed her owner in 1972, 1973 and 1974 as I. A. Diques y Astilleros Nacionales (note the spelling differences). The 1974 Lloyd's supplement reported that the vessel was broken up, but provided no further information. It is entirely possible that TRITON may only have been partially dismantled, with her remains lingering for a further period of time. In any event, the continued listing in A.B.S. should not be interpreted as an indication that TRITON is still in existence today.
It also appears that SANDLAND/TRITON was repowered not only once but rather twice in her lifetime. The engine that was put in her at Cornwall in 1954 lasted but a short time, perhaps because it was not anticipated that the vessel would operate past 1959. In any case, it is reported that, in 1967. TRITON was fitted with a Fairbanks Morse diesel which had been built at Chicago. We do not have any information concerning the history of this engine, but must assume that it was not new when it was placed in TRITON.
It would appear that we have now said just about all that could be said concerning SANDLAND. If, however, any members should have additional information regarding this interesting canaller, we would be pleased to hear from them.
Observers all around the lakes were pleased to hear, in 1984, that the Marine Museum of the Great Lakes at Kingston had managed to obtain from the Government of Ontario, for the huge sum of $1.00, the retired ferry WOLFE ISLANDER (III). This interesting motorship was, for many years, the mainstay of the ferry service between Kingston and Wolfe Island. Designed for coastal freight service in foreign waters, she was not a particularly handsome boat, but she was closely associated with the marine history of the Kingston area, and it seemed fitting that she was to become a permanent display at the museum there.
There were, however, those who considered the WOLFE ISLANDER to be a blight on the Kingston waterfront, just as some Kingston residents seem to have come to the conclusion that there should be no commercial shipping in the area at all, and that the entire waterfront should be given over to residential and recreational use.
Nevertheless, WOLFE ISLANDER appeared to have a promising future ahead of her at the museum until, early in 1985, it became apparent that the museum could obtain the retired Coast Guard icebreaker ALEXANDER HENRY. The HENRY arrived at Kingston in May, and she has since been opened for public viewing. Once she was in place, the museum operators decided that she was a far more suitable display than was the lowly WOLFE ISLANDER, and accordingly the museum set about disposing of the unwanted ferry.
In due course, it was proposed that WOLFE ISLANDER be sunk in some 85 feet of water between Dawson's Point on Wolfe Island and Bayfield Shoal, so that she might serve as an attraction for divers. Local residents and the Kingston newspaper jumped on the bandwagon in support of this grisly plan and the movement to sink the ferry grew in strength. A local radio station even went so far as to form a "Sink the WOLFE ISLANDER Fund", organizing an auction of the vessel's furnishings and equipment, as well as a dollar corn roast (tastelessly called a "buc-an-ear"), to help raise the $8,000 considered to be necessary to sink the boat.
Meanwhile, the councils of both Wolfe Island Township and Pittsburgh Township took exception to the whole sideshow, fearing their liability should divers be injured on the wreck and expressing their concern that they had not been consulted before Ontario government approval was obtained for the sinking. They also decried the whole affair as a complete disregard for their local heritage. Their efforts to stop the sinking were for nought, however, for on the morning of Saturday, September 21st, while the television cameras rolled, WOLFE ISLANDER was scuttled in the appointed location.
We fully realize the value of preserving existing wrecks as part of our Great Lakes heritage, and it is fortunate that divers have available to them a great number of wrecks to explore. We do not, however, require any more wrecks to be created simply for the pleasure of divers and for no other purpose. We have serious doubts about the sanity of anyone who would create all this hoopla out of the sad event of uselessly sinking a valuable historical relic. The whole thing smacks of the abysmally bad taste with which old ferry steamers and sailing vessels were burned as spectacles off Toronto's Sunnyside Park on public holidays back in the late 1920s and early 1930s. It is obvious that civilization has not made much progress in the intervening years.
We cannot but deplore the fate of WOLFE ISLANDER, and we have no hesitation whatever in condemning the actions of all those associated with her sinking. We also worry about the future of ALEXANDER HENRY, for if some "better" display for the museum should ever become available, the former icebreaker, too, might find herself in line for the same sort of fate to which the faithful old WOLFE ISLANDER was consigned by those who were in a position to preserve her for the benefit of all but who, apparently, gave in to the wishes of a special interest group. All those who reside near the Great Lakes are the poorer as a result.
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.