The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Daily British Whig (Kingston, ON), Feb. 22, 1881

Full Text

p.3 Wind Wafts - Another $50,000 has been voted for the improvement of the Oswego harbor. There's millions in it already, and yet Kingston has a far better harbor above the bridge that it never uses..



An interesting petition was on Monday afternoon presented to Parliament on behalf of the Toronto Seamens' Union. The petition reads as follows:

The petition of the Toronto Seamens' Benevolent Union of Toronto, and others, whose names are hereunder written, humbly showeth:

1. During the sailing season of 1880 heavy storms prevailed over the North American continent, and swept the Great Lake region with unprecedented violence; the number of reported casualties to vessels upon the Canadian waters of the great lakes exceeds one hundred and fifty, the value of the ships and cargoes destroyed is estimated at near $3,000,000, and the loss of lives, though not accurately ascertained, is very heavy. Your petitioners, the Toronto Seamen's Benevolent Union, a benevolent society, incorporated under the laws of the Province of Ontario on the 29th of June, 1879, and composed of seamen, lost nine members through storms during the year. On Lake Ontario the number of seamen lost from the undermentioned wrecked vessels is as follows: Sailing vessels Belle Sheridan, 6; Northman, 10; Olive Branch, 6; Garibaldi, 1; and the propeller Zealand, 17; in all 49 (sic). On Lakes Erie, Huron, Superior, as well as the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, your petitioners believe a similarly large loss of lives, ships, and cargoes occurred in Canadian waters.

2. Sailing vessels in the merchant lake service of Canada carry no lifeboats, buoys, jackets, nor life-saving apparatus whatever, and though some vessels carry a boat called a yawl boat, the number of such vessels is small compared with the whole merchant lake service, and the yawl boats they carry are notoriously unfit for use in calm weather, and never in case of storm or shipwreck.

3. Steam vessels in such service carry life boats and jackets, but from defects in construction and material they are worthless, and in time of trial said defects in construction and material are:

(a) The covering which binds together the cork and cork shavings, of which the life-bouys and jackets are composed, consists of a light cotton or calico material that gives way before a slight strain.

(b) Said cotton or calico covering is sewed by machines that carry a large needle, make a large hole in the stuff sown, but only use a small thread, and stitch through the material and not overhand; the result is that if one stitch breaks the whole sewing ravels easily.

(c) The ties and fastenings used to bind the life buoys and jackets to the body, known as lanyards and braces, are made of a light cotton tape, which does not and cannot resist any considerable pressure. Several life-buoys and jackets bearing the stamp of the steam propeller Zealand have been washed ashore with their lanyards and braces broken.

4. Your petitioners submit that for the preservation of life, life-buoys and jackets should be covered with canvas of a texture not lighter than that known as No. 8, or other equally strong material, and should be sewed with strong thread, overhand and not through, as is done by machines now used; that lanyards and braces of life-buoys and jackets should be made of manilla rope, not less than 1 7/8 ? inches in circumference; and that sailing vessels and steamships should be required to carry one life buoy and one life-jacket for each person on board.

5. The sailing vessel Norway was wrecked, waterlogged at her anchors; the sailing vessel Belle Sheridan was stranded near Weller's Bay, on Lake Ontario, and both crews, numbering 16 souls, perished, except the one man from the Belle Sheridan, who saved himself by means of a plank. Your petitioners believe that had those vessels carried life buoys or jackets, or other means of saving life, many, if not all, those persons so lost might have been saved.

6. The Canadian life-saving apparatus stationed upon the great lakes consists, as your petitioners are informed, of three life-boats, one at Toronto, one at Port Colborne, and one at Cobourg; but these boats are of very inferior construction, are not mained by trained crews, can hardly be got when wanted, and have proved of little service in saving life.

7. Canadian ships take advantage of the life-saving stations and apparatus of the United States of America. These stations on the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and the great lakes, number 197, of which 34 (84 ?) are in the great lakes. Since their establishment in 1871 the number of recorded disasters is 1,097; amount of property, ships and cargo involved, $20,457,735; amount saved, $12,130,215; lives in peril, 10,881; lives saved, 10,010; and of the 371 lives lost 183 appear to have been brought about by causes over which the life-saving stations and apparatus could have no control. The number of persons brought on shore this year from wrecked vessels by apparatus of said life-saving stations is 706, and out of the casualties on the coasts of the United States of America this year, reported as 300, only 9 lives were lost. Your petitioners believe that the establishment at necessary points in Canada of life-saving stations similar to those of the United States would be followed by equally good results in the saving of lives, ships and cargoes in the Canadian merchant marine service.

9. (sic) The only persons on board Canadian merchant vessels in the lake service, who pass examinations and receive certificates of fitness, are the first and second engineers of steamships. No examination is had for the position of captain and first and second officer in any branch of the Canadian merchant lake service. Your petitioners believe that great danger to and loss of life and property arises, and may arise, from the inexperience and ignorance of uncertificated persons entrusted with the care of ships, cargoes, crews and passengers, and that an effective system of examination into the fitness of persons for the position of captain or master, first and second officers, made compulsory and a condition of holding any such position or office would materially decrease the enormous loss of life and property which obtains (sic) in the Canadian merchant service.

10. No survey or examination into the seaworthiness of steam or sailing vessels used upon the great lakes of Canada is had, and your petitioners have reason to believe that many losses of lives, ships and cargoes arise from unseaworthy vessels being permitted to leave port.

Your petitioners therefore pray:

1. That all ships in the Canadian merchant service may be required to carry for each person on board one life buoy and one life jacket made of cork of the form now in use, covered with canvas of quality known as No. 8, and strongly sewed overhand, and that the lanyards and braces of said buoys and jackets be made of rope of at least 1 1/4 inches in circumference.

2. That life-saving stations may be established in Canadian waters at such points as may be deemed necessary.

3. That all masters, captains, mates, and officers in the Canadian merchant lake service may be required to pass an examination on practical seamanship, as a condition of their taking or holding office on board Canadian vessels, and that a competent staff of examiners be appointed for the purpose of such examination.

4. That all ships be surveyed and examined as to their seaworthiness by competent persons before leaving port.

5. Such other relief as your Honourable House may deem meet.

Media Type:
Item Type:
Date of Original:
Feb. 22, 1881
Local identifier:
Language of Item:
Rick Neilson
Copyright Statement:
Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
WWW address
Powered by / Alimenté par VITA Toolkit

My favourites lets you save items you like, tag them and group them into collections for your own personal use. Viewing "My favourites" will open in a new tab. Login here or start a My favourites account.

Daily British Whig (Kingston, ON), Feb. 22, 1881