The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
British Whig (Kingston, ON), Nov. 12, 1889

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An Investigation Is Now Being Held About It.

Yesterday the investigation into the loss of the crew of the barge Bavaria on the 28th May last, off the Ducks, began at the office of the inspectors. Capt. Thomas Donnelly presided.

R.T. Walkem, Q.C., appeared as counsel for the Calvin company.

Captain Manson, of the steambarge Tecumseh, was the first witness sworn. He was on deck all the night of the 28th May. The wind was blowing so hard that it was impossible to keep the steamer in the right course. He turned the boat around and headed for Collins Bay, from which place he had started. One of his tow - the barge Cameron - broke loose after turning around. When abreast of Salmon Point he saw a vessel about five miles off. She had no sails hoisted except eight or ten feet of her forestaysail. He saw a number of logs in the lake, but no one on board the vessel. When off Long Point he saw a boat adrift with a man in it. It was bottom side up. The sea was breaking over it at the time. The man was about five minutes in his sight. He thought of going to the rescue, but did not think it would be safe to try it. He knew his boat would not come up head to the wind in such a heavy sea. If she could it would not have taken long to go to where the sailor was. If he had gone to the sailor's assistance he would have had to let go the barges in tow. When he came across the barge Valencia he blew four blasts on the whistle to signal the steamer Calvin to go back to the assistance of the vessel abreast of Long Point. It was about twenty five minutes after before the Calvin turned. The captain spoke about meeting the barges of the Calvin's tow related in the mate's evidence which followed.

Alexander Anderson, Dixon's Landing, mate of the steambarge Tecumseh, said that on the night of the 28th May last there was a very heavy sea on, and it was impossible to keep the vessel on her right course. She had three barges in tow. At eight o'clock he noticed a barge about four miles ahead in a disabled condition. He supposed at the time it was one of the steamer Calvin's tow. The Tecumseh passed this disabled barge about a mile to the north. It could be easily seen that she was loaded with timber. She was rolling but not as much as would be expected according to the heavy sea. She had no sail on and there was no one to be seen on deck. Between the Tecumseh and the barge sticks of timber were floating. When off Point Peter light the captain spoke to him and called his attention to something in the water. When he looked he could not at first see anything but afterwards saw a man hanging on the bottom of a yawl boat about a quarter of a mile away. The man in the boat got up and waved his hat. The men on the Tecumseh watched the man as long as they could, but they did not see him disappear. The waves were very high and, at times, the man clinging to the yawl boat would go out of sight the waves dashing over him. The captain asked him if he thought anything could be done and he replied: "It is impossible to turn the steamer." She was going at a fast rate of speed - eleven miles an hour. There was considerable talk on the steambarge about the man as we felt it hard to pass him. If there had been any hope of sending him any assistance he (the mate) would have been the first to do so. They would have endangered their own vessel if they had attempted to turn her. After passing the Bavaria the steamer came across the Valencia about four miles down the lake. The Valencia had also, by this time, lost some of her deck load. It was floating near her. He considered she had a good deck load left on board. The crew were on her deck, but did not make any signals to the Tecumseh. The Calvin was approaching the Tecumseh so the captain of the latter shifted his course to get near her. When near the Calvin Capt. Manson waved his hat to a man on her and tried to draw his attention to the barges up the lake. After passing the Ducks about three miles the Tecumseh came across the barge Norway, about four miles to the northward. The Norway was under sail at the time but was in the trough of the sea and was rolling. Anderson was for fifteen years a captain on timber barges and considered four tiers a good load in the summer season. He had once broken loose from the Tecumseh in a heavy sea with four tiers on and arrived in port safely. It was impossible for the Tecumseh to pick up the barges on the 28th May off Long Point. No man would have dared to do so. The wind on the 28th May was the heaviest he ever experienced.

Cross-examined by Mr. Walkem he positively asserted that it was impossible to save the life of the man on the yawl boat. The men made a great mistake in leaving the boat to go into a yawl boat in such a heavy sea, especially when she had pine timber on. He never heard of a vessel loaded with pine being a complete loss.

Joseph Dawson, engineer of the steamer Tecumseh, said he was on watch all the night of the 28th of May last. One of the deck hands came to him and told him that there was a man in the water. The second engineer relieved him for a minute and he went and looked out of the window and saw the man. He was sitting on the stern of the yawl boat which was bottom up. He saw the man raise his hand as far as his shoulder and then it dropped as if he was completely exhausted. He was a man with dark whiskers and dark hair. He was about a half mile from the steamer. Dawson only stayed on deck about three minutes. After going down to the engine room he came on deck again but could see no sign of the man in the small boat. The captain said it was too bad to pass that man but they could do nothing for him. He agreed with what the captain said. He knew the steamer Tecumseh well and was positive that she would not turn in such a sea.

Robert Bell, Port Hope, wheelsman on the Tecumseh, was on deck on the 28th of May last and was one of the first to see the man on the yawl boat. He watched him for about four minutes and then had to go and attend to the wheel. As soon as he saw the man he communicated it to the captain, who then whistled for the Calvin, as he understood, to come back.

This morning the investigation was resumed. Capt. Malone, of the steamer Calvin, was the first witness. He stated that before the tow lines broke he saw all the men on the barge Bavria. They were on the leeward side of the boat. He did not see any of the men on the Bavaria take to the boats. His attention was attracted to the Valencia, which at the time had taken a very bad shear. The Valencia at the time was in tow of the Calvin. She was the last boat to break away from the Calvin.

The captain stated that the tows broke away about six o'clock in the evening. A big gale was blowing at the time. When the Bavaria broke loose her bowsprit broke off. It was at this time that he saw the crew on the deck of the Bavaria. They were pulling the yawl boat around under the lee quarter of the Bavaria. He saw the Bavaria in the trough of the sea and that was the last he saw of the crew. He thought that the Bavaria was not waterlogged at the time. When (unreadable) of Long Point he noticed that the barge Valencia was in a bad state. He ordered the captain to turn though he thought it a bit risky (unreadable) thing to do, but he did not want to desert his tow. He was afraid of disabling his engine. He went back to the Bavaria but did not hear any whistle from the str. Tecumseh. On passing the Bavaria he took notice that there was none of the crew on board and then thought that they were all below. The engineer remarked to him about there being no one on deck, so he took the Calvin close to the Bavaria. He did not see any person on the deck. If they had taken to the small boats they had certainly perished. The captain then headed his vessel for the regular course. After laying in shelter until 6 p.m. the next day he again went to look up his tow and found the Bavaria drifting down near Yorkshire Island. The crew could not have been on board now as a line could have been thrown to the Bavaria. It was so rough that he did not put any of his men in a small boat to go on the Bavaria. When he next saw the Bavaria she was stranded on Galoo Island, full of water. He then towed her to Garden Island. He did not consider the Bavaria overloaded. During the storm he signalled the Bavaria to throw overboard some of her deck load.


The schr. E.C.R. Proctor, from Charlotte with coal, is in port.

The steamer Canada, from Kingston to Port Dalhousie, arrived at that place last evening.

The prop. Dominion, aground near Grindstone Island, was lightened and released by the tug Bronson.

The report in regard to the sinking of the steamer Newburg, sent out from Ogdensburg, has proved to be untrue.

The tug Myra, sunk in the collision with the Rothesay, has been thoroughly repaired and made her first trip on Tuesday last.

There is very little business for vessels and barges at the present time, and in consequence many boats, which are generally employed until navigation closes, have had to lay up.

The steamer Rothesay still remains in about the same position as usual. Parts of her paddle boxes have been torn off, probably by the heavy wind which prevailed Thursday night.

The prop. Glengarry and tow have gone into winter quarters. On their recent trip to the city a snow storm was encountered on Lake Superior. For a short time the storm was very heavy and the wind blew bitterly cold.

Capt. A. Peters, of Windsor, has bought for $200 from the Aetna and Western Insurance companies the wreck of the Canadian steambarge Clinton, as it lies in Little Pike Bay, east shore of Lake Huron, about forty miles above Southampton. The purchase includes machinery and outfit stored ashore. The Clinton was wrecked about two years ago.

The prop. Persia has made her last trip for the season, and will lay up at St. Catharines. Capt. Scott reports a very satisfactory financial season. He has made twenty-eight round trips. "The weather this year," said Captain Scott, "has been magnificent. It has been the mildest I have experienced for many years. We have not met with one bad storm during the entire season."

It remained for a Canadian, Capt. Ewarts, of the Canadian steamer Rosedale, to have broken a record. On Thursday night last at dark he was at Detour, Lake Huron. On Friday at 2 a.m. he had locked through the Sault canal, having performed the unparalled feat of running the whole length of St. Mary's river after dark. The Rosedale made the trip from the Soo to Port Arthur in twenty-five hours in the teeth of a south-west wind.

At The Wreck Of The Gaskin.

[Brockville Times]

On Saturday Mr. Leslie and his staff of men were very hopeful that they would be able to raise the wreck of the barge Gaskin and bring it to shore. About six o'clock, the barge started and came to the surface, but almost immediately sank again. This was caused by a split in the pontoon, which it is supposed was caused by its striking heavily against something on the boat when it was sunk. So long as the pontoon was under the water the air pumps had force enoough to drive the water out, but when it came in contact with the air at the surface, the split was opened wider and it quickly filled with water again. This morning another attempt was made to force the water out of the pontoon, but after working six hours it was given up as a bad job. Another pontoon will be sunk. This will take three or four days, so that it will be towards the end of the week before the barge can be raised. The Gaskin lies immediately below and close to the Armstrong, and it is necessary to get the former out before attempting to raise the latter. Mr. Leslie is having the pontoons altered, by putting a bulkhead in the centre of each, which will enable them to better control them when sinking. As they are now, when filled with water they sink very rapidly, and if they are allowed to sink before being completely filled, they will go down end foremost. When the barge is out of the way Mr. Leslie does not expect it will take many days to raise the Armstrong.

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Nov. 12, 1889
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Rick Neilson
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Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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British Whig (Kingston, ON), Nov. 12, 1889