Ship of the Month No. 154 The Loss Of Algoma

Table of Contents

Title Page
The Editor's Notebook
Marine News
Frank R. Crevier
Strangers In Our Bay
A Last Look At Winter Lay-Ups
Ship of the Month No. 154 The Loss Of Algoma
The Honorable Peter White
Index Of Seaway Ocean Vessels 1986
Lake Ship Modellers
Table of Illustrations

It was away back in February 1974 that we featured the famous Canadian Pacific Railway steamers ALGOMA, ALBERTA and ATHABASCA as Ship of the Month No. 37 in Volume VI, Number 5. Our story was undoubtedly the most comprehensive item that, until then, had ever appeared in print concerning the handsome trio of passenger and freight vessels, but over the intervening years we have learned considerably more about the steamers. To present here all of the additional material that has since become available would take far more space than we can afford, so at this time we will limit our consideration to ALGOMA and the tragic end of her extremely short career.

The three steamers were almost exact sisterships, there being only very minor differences amongst them. All three were built at Glasgow, ALBERTA by Charles Connell and Company, and ATHABASCA and ALGOMA by Aitken and Mansel. As built, the steel hulls were 263.5 feet in length, 38.2 feet in the beam, and 23.3 feet in depth, and ALGOMA's Gross Tonnage was 1773. ALGOMA was launched into the waters of the River Clyde at the Kelvinhaugh yard of her builders on Tuesday, July 31, 1883. Her sponsor was a Miss Schaw of Glasgow.

ALGOMA and her sisters crossed the North Atlantic under their own power, with no cabins on the upper deck and only a makeshift pilothouse provided. They were cut apart at the Cantin Shipyard at Montreal, were towed up through the old St. Lawrence and Welland Canals, and were rejoined by the Union Dry Dock Company at Buffalo. They were then taken back to Port Colborne, where their superstructures were constructed during the winter of 1883-84. Our readers will, no doubt, be quite familiar with the classic appearance of the big vessels, so we will not go into detail here in that respect. It should be noted that, in the fashion of the day, ALGOMA and her sisters were fitted with auxiliary sail on both fore and mainmast.

Photo by J. Rutherford, from the McCannell Collection, shows ALGOMA upbound in the Weitzel Lock at the Soo on her maiden voyage, May 12, 1884.
ALGOMA sailed from Port Colborne when her cabins were finished, and she arrived at Owen Sound on May 10, 1884. The last of the trio to be launched, she was the first to go into service, sailing from Owen Sound on May 11th. With a large consignment of freight, and what was to be a record load of 1,100 passengers (far in excess either of the builder's expectations or the capacity of her safety apparatus), she passed upbound at Sault Ste. Marie the next day and arrived safely at Port Arthur on May 13. The three steamers proved to be immensely successful and they attracted large numbers of passengers.

ATHABASCA and ALBERTA would operate for the C.P.R. for no less than sixty years each, but the luckless ALGOMA was to enjoy only two seasons of service. She perished in the only major accident involving loss of life that would ever befall the C.P.R. lake service. Her loss was all the more horrible for her owners in that, while ALGOMA was grinding out her life on Greenstone Island off Isle Royale in Lake Superior, the Hon. Donald Smith, Lord Strathcona, was driving the ceremonial last spike in the C.P.R. transcontinental railway line at Craigellachie, British Columbia. The date was Saturday, November 7th, 1885.

Much has been said over the years about the loss of ALGOMA, but very little of it has been detailed in nature. As a result of material from the collection of the late Sir Edward Beatty (longtime President of the C.P.R.), which has come to us via our late friend and member Alan Howard, all of the details are now available. We are pleased indeed to be able to present them here for our members. What follows is the account of the accident as contained in the sworn evidence of ALGOMA's first mate, Joseph Buckley Hastings, at the enquiry conducted by Captains Andrew R. Gordon and Thomas Harbottle at Toronto in December 1885. All but one of the explanatory additions in parentheses are ours.

"We left Whitefish Point at 3:50 on the afternoon of Friday, November 6th, 1885. Weather cloudy, blowing stiff from E.N.E. Did not put over patent log. We used to run across the lake on time without using patent log. At first, we frequently used patent log to ascertain time required to cross under different weather conditions. We (usually) made the land within a few minutes (of estimated time). It was after we arrived at Passage Island that we (normally) took the time. The patent log had been tried in heavy weather.

This fine broadside view by James Esson, also from the McCannell Collection, caught ALGOMA alongside the C.P.R. grain elevator at Owen Sound.
"Point of departure on this occasion was at 3:50 p.m., Whitefish Point Light abeam three miles. Usual ship's course was N.W. by W. 1/2 W. We were steering N.W. by W. 1/4 W. Shortly after passing Whitefish Point, made all sail. I kept her on this course until I was relieved at 6:30 p.m. Weather somewhat same as before, blowing fresh from Eastward. When I left the deck, I explained the course I had been taking to the 2nd Officer. I was relieved by the 2nd Officer. I came on deck again about 1:30 a.m. of the 7th.

"I found it blowing a moderate gale from E.N.E. The sea was inclined to rise a little at that time and was running true. We were steering at that time N.W. by W. We kept on this course. The wind increased until 3 a.m., when it shifted to N.E. and the sea was running confused, the ship being more inclined to gripe to the Northward.

"I kept my watch mostly on the bridge and sometimes on the forward deck. I am certain from my own observation after I came on deck at 1:30, that the course of the ship was nothing to leeward of N.W. by W. After 3 a.m., hail showers. At 3:30, could see 4 or 5 miles off; could have seen light at that distance.

"The Captain, Chief Engineer and I had a consultation (the Captain and I had a talk before the Engineer came up). We were going over the matter at that time as to the advisability of turning her around, when I learned from the Captain that the ship had been running under easy steam for some time in the first watch and all of my watch. This set my mind at rest altogether on the subject of over-running our distance. We decided to let her go along slowly.

By the Court: "Were you in a position to judge with any degree of accuracy as to the rate she was going?" Reply: "I think she was going 13 1/2 or 13 3/4 (miles per hour) under easy steam at this time. The Captain told the Engineer to slow her down still more. About 4 o'clock, it began to snow and was blowing a strong gale from the N.E. Immediately on snow starting, we proceeded to take in sail."

A rather different view of the wreck of ALGOMA on Greenstone Island, taken by J. F. Cooke of Port Arthur. Note the men searching the debris ashore.
By the Court: "How are look-outs kept?" Reply: "Deckhands are not employed as look-out men, but the watchman is taken from the deck and put on the lookout when required. The Captain was on the bridge all the time."

"I asked the Captain to keep her before the wind a little as it was blowing very hard. I did this because I was afraid I could not handle the canvas with the men I had. He kept her away to W. by S. This was about 4:05 a.m. Took in the main spencer (trisail) and ran down main staysail, and as I had a few hands to spare, I sent them to haul down the fore staysail. About 4:35, all canvas was in. During the time she was kept away, I think she was making between 8 and 9 miles per hour.

"The Captain at this time starboarded the helm, intending to bring her to and head her out into the lake. She was slow in coming to, and she must have been swinging about 3 minutes when she struck. I should judge that she struck first a little forward of amidships. I do not remember what we were drawing. The Captain now asked my opinion of her position and I said I thought she was hard and fast. He then told me to go down and get the passengers up.

"I ran down through the pilothouse and took my boots off as I was going down. I went in by the starboard forward hallway door, as it was at this time the lee side; the ship was now pounding heavily, but the sea was not breaking over forward yet. I found some of the passengers in the cabin at that time. They asked me what was the matter and I told them the ship was ashore. I advised them to keep cool and go as high up and as far forward as possible. I found the stewardess in the after end of the cabin and told her to get her passengers up, and gave her the same directions to go forward. I then went to the main deck.

"I found all round the engineroom was filled with steam, and the engines stopped; by this time, the electric light had gone out. The Engineer did not stop the engines; they stopped themselves almost immediately. The Captain had rung to stop them, but the steam pipes had burst and so they stopped themselves.

"The first room I entered was the Purser's; he had an Argand lamp burning in his room. I gave him the same directions as the passengers as regards going up and forward, and I also told him to take whatever papers he thought necessary to bring with him. He asked me what papers I thought he ought to bring, but at that moment the ship gave a fearful crack and the cargo shifted on the main deck. The sea came in, poured down into the stoke hole, and I could hear it putting the fires out. I told him not to mind his papers but to take care of himself and to lose no time. I left his room and that was the last I saw of him.

"I then passed to the Chief Engineer's room; the door was open and the room empty. Went to the 2nd Engineer's room and found it similarly empty. Went to the greasers' room and found one of the greasers had just jumped out of bed. I told him to go up on deck as far forward and as high up as he could. I then went to the waiters' room and found it empty, then across the deck to the watchmen's room and found it empty.

"The steam by this time had become dense. I could see nothing and had to grope my way, and fearing any of the steerage passengers might be aft on the deck, I sang out for them to go on deck as far forward and high up as they could. I then groped my way back to the stairway and up into the cabin again. On going into the forward part of the cabin, I saw a lot of the passengers huddled together. The electric light was flickering at intervals and by this I saw these passengers.

"I caught hold of two of the women by the hand and tried to lead them through the door at which I had come in. I had just got to the doorway when a heavy sea struck the ship and smashed in the Captain's room and the room at the other side of it. The sea washed the two women away from me and threw them across the cabin. I, by stretching my arms across the doorway, managed to hold myself there, but was thrown down and the sea passed over me.

"As soon as I could, I picked myself up and went back into the cabin and told the passengers to go round by the other doorway. I could see a light shining through the window of the pantry and someone called to me through the window, saying they were going out through there. I sang out to them to come through that window, and to come out as quickly as possible.

"The head waiter and head porter then caught me by the hand and told me they would stay with me. I made for the pantry window and jumped through, they following me. I got up on the promenade deck and could hear the heavy seas breaking in the starboard side of the house. I stretched a lifeline along from the fore rigging to the funnel shrouds. I then got into the fore rigging and advised those who were standing on the deck to follow me. The sea was now breaking over the promenade deck. The starboard boats were all washed away by this time. I saw that the foretopmast was gone. I remained in the fore rigging for some time. I found the foremast was getting very insecure, the starboard fore rigging having been carried away and some of the port rigging, and the mast labouring very heavily.

"I advised the men to come down out of the fore rigging and go aft to the main. One of the men told me he thought the fore rigging had as good a chance as the main. I told him I did not think so, and pointed out to him that the mainmast was still standing true, and the rigging on the foremast was (almost) wholly gone. I said I was going to the main rigging and he could please himself. I went around to the main rigging. I understand this man endeavoured to follow me almost immediately afterwards, but a heavy sea broke in the crown deck (clerestory roof) and washed him down through the hole.

"I got into the main rigging and found a lot of passengers and a number of the crew on the upper deck below me. I came down and found the Captain there, at that time engaged in stretching a lifeline for the passengers and crew to hold on to. I went down to assist him but found that he had ample help, and very few of them having life preservers on, I started into the cabin with the Chief Steward to procure some. The lights were now all out and it was pitch dark in the cabin. We groped our way; the Chief Steward opened the doors and I pulled the life preservers out and threw about half a dozen to the people outside.

"The cabin being now smashed up along where we were, I deemed it advisable to go back and went onto the outside and smashed in two other windows and emptied two other rooms of life preservers, took one myself, gave one to the Captain, and then climbed into the main rigging so as to be in safety, and to watch what was going on.

"From this point, I shortly after saw the foremast go over the side on the port bow. The sea had risen very much during this time, which I do not think was more than an hour from the time she first struck. Daylight was just beginning to break. Each sea seemed to break up something new. The ship continued to break up rapidly. After daylight, I remained in the rigging for a while.

"The people were being washed away, sometimes singly, sometimes two at a time, and the cabin gradually was being demolished. About 9 o'clock, I suppose, I saw a man making for the after scuttle hatch. I came down out of the rigging at once and went to help clear away the debris, and clearing away and getting down below found the after part of the steerage deck comparatively dry. I sang out for them all to come along, and all who came at that time are still living. We remained 24 hours on the steerage deck. Then, on Sunday morning at daylight, I sent a man with a pole and a sheet and told him to put it up as high as he could on the mainmast for a signal. The after end of the ship continued to pound on the rocks until night-fall on Saturday.

"On Sunday morning, I found one of the ship's axes down in the after steerage, and started to chop away the rigging from the promenade deck to make a raft of this deck. Three of the crew had been previously washed ashore. I got a line and established communication with the shore. We got ashore about noon on Sunday by means of the raft I had constructed from a portion of the hurricane deck. As soon as we had sent the sick and disabled to the fishermen's houses, I with some of the crew searched the shore for any bodies which had been on board. On the arrival of ATHABASCA, we further searched the shore in one of her boats, and found two bodies which we took to Port Arthur...

"I think that the run across the lake was about half an hour quicker than usual, ordinary time about 13 1/2 to 13 3/4 hours. I talking of speed, I meant statute miles, not knots. It is not customary on the lakes to speak of knots but of statute miles. In taking a distance off the chart, I invariably convert them."

Several questions posed to First Officer Hastings are of great interest. By the Court: "Did you use the deep sea lead?" Reply: "No. Ship was supplied with ordinary 100 fathom deep sea lead line." By the Court: "Did you ever hear instructions given by Mr. (Henry) Beatty to the Captain and, if so, what were they?" Reply: "I was present on one occasion and heard Mr. Beatty tell the Captain he was to run no risk." By the Court: "If the ship had been headed out into the lake earlier, would she have ridden the gale safely?" Reply: "I think she would."

We quote here only the testimony of the First Officer, because of all of the crew who survived, his evidence is the most extensive and complete. As well, his evidence is corroborated by all of the others, even those who were asleep in their cabins at the time of the grounding on Greenstone Rock! We now turn to the findings of the Court of Enquiry, from which we have exerpted the most interesting sections.

"The Court appointed to investigate into the cause of the loss of the S.S. ALGOMA, having taken all of the evidence available and having carefully examined the construction of the S.S. ALBERTA, which is a vessel precisely similar in every respect to the ALGOMA, have the honour to report as follows...

"The ALGOMA has, since she was first fitted out on the lakes, been commanded by Capt. John S. Moore of Owen Sound. This officer holds a Certificate of Service and has been sailing on the lakes since he was fourteen years of age. He has been Master for eleven seasons and states in his evidence that, prior to the loss of ALGOMA, no mishap had ever befallen any vessel under his command. The First Officer holds an English Board of Trade Certificate of Competency as Master.

"The ALGOMA left Owen Sound on Thursday, the 5th (of November, 1885), having on board about 430 tons of freight and about 100 tons of fuel. She was drawing 13 feet 4 inches aft and 7 feet 2 inches forward. At Sault Ste. Marie, a few additional packages were taken on board, but nothing which would have materially affected her trim.

"At the time the ship left Owen Sound, the storm signals had been ordered up for some hours, but Capt. Moore does not recollect noticing them. They had a good run to the Sault and passed Whitefish Point, Lake Superior, at 3:50 p.m. on the afternoon of Friday, the 6th. The First Officer was in charge of the deck at the time... (We will not repeat again all of Hastings' evidence as quoted in the Court's decision -Ed.)... in consequence of the threatening appearance of the weather and the fact that it was already blowing hard from E.N.E., he thought it advisable to keep her up a quarter of a point. The log was not put over...

"The wind continued to freshen but remained steady at E.N.E. At 8 p.m., the Captain told the Engineer that he did not want to make Passage Island before daylight, and the Engineer replied that at the then speed of the engine (64 revolutions), they would not make it before 6 in the morning. The speed of the engine is supposed by Capt. Moore to have remained uniform from this time up to 4 a.m., but as both the Engineers were drowned, we have no evidence direct on this point.

"At 10 p.m., the course was altered... (and here we jump ahead to the time the vessel was turned again -Ed.)... Capt. Moore decided to take the course off the ship and head her out into the lake to wait for daylight and clearing weather. He went below, saw the Engineer, told him what he proposed doing, and the Engines were at once eased down to dead slow. Going on deck again at once (the time is given by the First Officer as 4:04 a.m.), the ship was kept away to W. by S. for the purpose of getting the canvas in. Captain Moore gives the time on this course as twenty minutes and the First Officer thirty minutes. The vessel making between 8 and 9 miles per hour, this would give her a run of nearly 4 miles on the W. by S. course.

"As soon as the canvas was in, the Captain ordered the wheelsman to starboard and had rung the engineroom telegraph for full speed. After the ship had swung 3 or 4 points, she struck near amidships. Very shortly after, she struck again, and feeling that there was now a large hole in the ship, Capt. Moore ordered the wheel aport intending to try and drive her on the beach. The ship was now fast aground amidships and swinging round with her bows on shore. Capt. Moore took a cast of the lead and found 11 feet of water under the bows.

"The sea now began to break over the ship and the forward part of the deck cabin got stove in. All that could be done to save the lives of the passengers and crew seems to have been done, and both officers, men and passengers seem to have retained their presence of mind and behaved with coolness and courage under the trying circumstances. Before daylight, the boats had all been washed away, the deck cabins were nearly all gone and the ship was rapidly breaking up.

"Many of those who were hanging on to the lifelines had been washed overboard and drowned. About nine in the morning, those who remained took shelter in the after steerage, where they were comparatively dry; they remained there for 24 hours and then got ashore by means of a raft made from a portion of the hurricane deck. The ship was found to have struck about 8 miles to the westward of Isle Royale, so that allowing 4 miles run on a W. by S. course, she was at 4 a.m. within 3 miles of the land and in between 50 and 70 fathoms of water. When doubtful of his position as he then was, a cast of the lead would at once have shown Capt. Moore the danger of his position and that it was his duty to haul out at once, even at the risk of losing his sails. Capt. Moore admits in his evidence that no one was specially detailed for look-out duty as he was keeping a look-out on the bridge himself.

"We have examined the General Manager and the Captains of the two other steamers, who all agree in stating that the instructions under which the ships are run, are to take no risks but to take care of the ships and people. The ships are also supplied with every modern appliance of improved pattern to assist in their safe navigation, and their compasses have each year been attended to by a professional adjuster, so that as far as the company is concerned, everything seems to have been done to provide for the safety and comfort of those on board their vessels.

"Sec. 2, Art. 24, Chap. 29 - 43 Victoria, enacts that nothing... shall exonerate any... master... from neglect to... keep a proper look-out or to take any precaution which may be required by the ordinary practice of seamen or by the special circumstances of the case. Sec. 3 of the same ac defines the ordinary practice of seamen to be the ordinary practice of skilful and careful persons engaged in navigating the waters of the Dominion of Canada in like cases.

"We have to report that it seems to be the common practice on the lake steamers to run on time, without the use of the log, that the use of a lead line longer than 25 fathoms is practically unknown, and that it is customary to consider the officer in charge of the deck as a sufficient 'look-out' except in thick weather, when the watchman is put on.

"On the occasion of the loss of the ALGOMA, Capt. Moore and his First Officer ran their ship across Lake Superior, a distance of 190 miles, on time and estimate of the speed of their ship made from the rate of revolution of the engines. When in doubt as to their position, the deep sea lead, with which their ship was supplied, was not used, and during the whole voyage there was no one specially detailed for look-out duty. We desire to point ou [sic] that, while Capt. Moore was following the practice which he had himself pursued successfully for years, and which seems to be common on the lakes, it is not, in our opinion, within the meaning of the Act, 'the ordinary practice of skilful and careful persons engaged in navigating &c, &c.'.

"We are of the opinion:

(1) That in all runs, when the ship cannot from time to time be placed by cross bearing or otherwise from known points on shore, the log ought to be used.

(2) That a lead line of 120 fathoms should be used on Lake Superior.

(3) That a look-out, within the meaning of the Act, cannot be kept by the Officer in charge of the deck. His duty requires him frequently to look into the lighted binnacle; this dazzles his eyes for the time so that he cannot see out into the night; and further, so many things occur from time to time requiring his attention, that it is, in our opinion, necessary at all times when the ship is under way to have a man specially detailed for look-out duty.

"The Captains of most of these lake steamers are not navigators but coast pilots, and it is only by insisting on the use of the log, the lead, and a proper look-out, that safety can be hoped for.

"We therefore find that the S.S. ALGOMA was lost through the default of her Captain, John S. Moore, in that he did not use either log or lead, and had no one specially detailed for look-out duty. Capt. Moore's certificate was lost with the ship and so it is not in the hands of the Court, but we decide that his certificate be cancelled for a period of twelve months from this date.

"The First Officer, Joseph B. Hastings, holds a Certificate of Competency as Master from the British Board of Trade. We find him in fault in that, when in charge of the deck, when he took his departure from Whitefish Point, he did not put over the patent log. We decide that his certificate be cancelled for six months from this date.

"We are of the opinion that the ship was lost through over-running her estimated distance, and had the Officers used their log and lead, with which they were supplied, they would have been apprised of the danger of their position in time to avert the loss of their ship.

"Both Capt. Moore and Mr. Hastings bear high character and their conduct after the ship struck was both courageous and self-sacrificing, but we feel that no such conduct displayed after the occurrence of the catastrophe can atone for the neglect of the simple precautions which led to it. Nor can we accept the plea that Capt. Moore and Mr. Hastings were following the common custom on the lakes, for in whatever measure this may be true, the system is not the less dangerous nor is it in accord with what we consider 'the ordinary practice of skilful and careful persons engaged in navigating the waters of the Dominion of Canada in like cases'.

"As near as we can find out, the ALGOMA carried, when she left Owen Sound, six cabin and five deck passengers. One cabin passenger got on at the Sault. Of these, only two were saved. We would recommend that it be made compulsory on all vessels carrying passengers for distances over 200 miles to leave at the port of departure a list of the names of their passengers."

Andrew R. Gordon

Thos. Harbottle Toronto, December 1885.

We have painstakingly transcribed all of the above from letterpress copies of the actual handwritten court documents, these copies apparently having been provided for Henry Beatty, who was the founder and general manager of the lake steamer services of the Canadian Pacific Railway. As far as we know, their contents have never before appeared in print.

With the court documents has been found a complete memo of the crew and passengers of ALGOMA as at November 7th, 1885. The list is beautifully inscribed in black and red ink, showing which persons were lost and which were saved, and it is entirely probable that it is in the handwriting of Henry Beatty himself. The list follows, and we only wish that we had the space here to reproduce it in its splendid original format; for requirements of space, however, we regret that we must use paragraph form. Following the original document, those saved are indicated by (s), whilst those lost are marked (x).

Officers: Captain - J. S. Moore (s); 1st Officer - J. B. Hastings (s); 2nd Officer - R. Simpson (s); Purser - A. MacKenzie (x); Chief Engineer - Geo. Pettigrew (x); 2nd Engineer - A. McDermott (x); Chief Steward - C. P. Taylor (x) .

Mate's Department: Wheelsmen - H. Hanson (x) and H. Lewis (s); Watchmen -H. C. Mortimer (x) and J. McNabb (s); Deckhands - R. Crorew ("Dublin")(x), Louis Root (x), C. Murray ("Cockney")(x), J. Bolton (s), R. Stevens (s), D. Coughlin (s), J. Scott (x), S. Ballantyne (x) and Unknown (shipped at Sault Ste. Marie (x).

Engineer's Department: Firemen - P. McCalgan (s), W. Gibson (x), J. Brown (x), J. Wagstaff (x), A. Mitchell (x) and M. McTaggart (x); Greasers - H. Buchner (x) and J. Paddell (x); Brasser - R. Mitchell (x).

Steward's Department: Stewardess - Miss Shannon (x); Steerage Steward - J. Jones (x); Head Waiter - W. Henderson (x); 1st Porter - J. Malone (x); 2nd Porter - G. Fettis (s); Pantryman - H. Gill (x); 1st Cook - J. Lott (x); 2nd Cook - F. Brooke (x); 3rd Cook - W. Stokes (x); Waiters - G. McCaul (s), J. McClean (s), H. McClinton (x), G. Emerson (x), F. Smellins (x), J. McIntyre (s), T. McKenzie (s) and F. Knight (x); Newsboy - Geo. Thompson (x).

Passengers: W. T. McCarter (s), J. P. Hull (s), D. Buchanan (x), C. Buchanan (x), E. Frost (x), Mrs. Frost & Child (x), Mrs. Dudgeon & Two Children (x), Wm. Higgins (x), Louis Zimmerman (x) and A. Munro (x).

Steerage (Supposed): W. Milligan (x) and Unknown (x).

SAVED: 14 Crew and 2 Passengers, Total 16.

LOST: 33 Crew and 13 Passengers, Total 46.

The fact that so many of the company of ALGOMA were lost on what otherwise was a day of great celebration for the railway, accounts for the reason the loss of ALGOMA was an event which the C.P.R. did its very best to forget over the years, but one which undoubtedly weighed very heavily on the mind of Henry Beatty. No doubt this is also the reason that the ALGOMA papers wound up in Henry Beatty's and then Sir Edward Beatty's personal collection rather than in the company files.

In any event, ALGOMA broke completely apart in the storm, and only the extreme after end of the steamer survived, the rest of the hull disintegrating into deep water. The after end, listing sharply to port, was completely devoid of deck cabins after the storm, although the mainmast remained in place. Very few bodies were ever recovered, but the wreckage of the steamer's superstructure was strewn all over the shore of Greenstone Island.

A rather different view of the wreck of ALGOMA on Greenstone Island, taken by J. F. Cooke of Port Arthur. Note the men searching the debris ashore.
In due course of time, the C.P.R. sent salvage experts to the scene, and it was determined that ALGOMA's machinery could be salvaged. A detailed list of the missing machinery, and the condition of that on hand, was prepared, one section of which reads as follows.

"Cylinders and Valves; Auxiliary valves on high pressure engine (cylinder) missing, also on low pressure engine; diagram indicator pipes missing and all waste water connections; 1 1/2 inch check valve at ship's side missing; engine lubricator broken (can be repaired); brass oil cups all broken; lagging around engines all gone; steam compound and vacuum gauges gone, also register and clock. (There should be 2 steam gauges, 1 compound gauge, 1 counter, 1 clock). Relief valve at back of high pressure valve to be fitted same as on ATHABASCA. Engine oil and grease cups all missing."

Despite all of this damage, which testifies to the force of the storm in which she perished, the machinery was salvaged from the wreck of ALGOMA and was totally refurbished and placed in MANITOBA, which was built by the Polson Iron Works at Owen Sound as a replacement for ALGOMA . MANITOBA was completed in 1889 and served the C.P.R. for sixty years, being retired at the close of the 1949 season and scrapped at Hamilton in 1950. The engine and boilers of ALGOMA served MANITOBA until she received a completely new set of machinery in 1914. The change in machinery for MANITOBA did not indicate any particular problem with ALGOMA's equipment, for ALBERTA and ATHABASCA also had their old engines and boilers removed and replaced in 1913.

The C.P.R. lake service, of course, managed to survive the loss of ALGOMA, and MANITOBA was a worthy replacement. However, having been excoriated by the Court of Enquiry for their negligence, the Master and First Officer of the lost ship did not enjoy further employment with the line, as the C.P.R. did everything in its power to forget the loss of the very first company-built ship that ever served its lake fleet. The railway continued to operate lake passenger service until the end of the 1965 season, with KEEWATIN being retired at that time and ASSINIBOIA continuing in freight-only service through the 1967 season.

Apart from the loss of life, the loss of reputation for the C.P.R. and the officers, and the demise of a fine steamer, the loss of ALGOMA finally came down to a matter of money (as do most things in the end). Someone highly placed with the C.P.R. kept an "ALGOMA Account 1884-1885", and it looked something like this:

So that is what someone ultimately considered the net result of the loss of ALGOMA. It is interesting to note that the account was not kept open through 1889 so that it might include the cost of building MANITOBA as a replacement for the wrecked steamer.

Nevertheless, had the events of November 7, 1885, not unfolded as they did, there seems little doubt that ALGOMA would have survived and operated along with ALBERTA and ATHABASCA through the 1944 season. Had such been the case, the famous MANITOBA, known as "Toby" to her many friends, and long the pride of Owen Sound, would never have been constructed, and the pattern of C.P.R. lake operations in latter years might have been much different than it actually proved to be.

* * *

Ed. Note: Once we had actually held those rare ALGOMA documents in our hands, there was no way we could resist sharing their contents with our members. We hope that you have enjoyed reading the material as much as we enjoyed preparing it for you. As an added surprise, we have included an extra page, being as good a photocopy as we could make of the only menu from ALGOMA that we have ever seen. It also comes to us from the Beatty and Howard collections.


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