The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Daily News (Kingston, ON), May 28, 1873

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p.1 To the Editor of the Daily News.

Sir, - I am glad to see the subject of Kingston harbor improvements continuing to excite the interest of your readers and correspondents, and hope that it will not be allowed to sleep any longer.

It may perhaps be useful to make a comparison between the ports of Kingston, Toronto and Hamilton, so as to show the relative importance of these harbours, which are, I believe, considered to be the best on the Canadian side of Lake Ontario:

1. Trade and Navigation

Imports and Exports, 1872

Toronto Kingston Hamilton

$15,114,254 $8,700,637 $6,014,006

Tonnage, Outwards and Inwards, 1872

Toronto Kingston Hamilton

466,151 651,699 73,205

Tonnage Registered In 1872

Toronto Kingston Hamilton

1,470 1,536 ----

2. Description of the Ports

The harbours of Hamilton and Toronto are composed of beautiful land locked bays. Burlington Bay covers an area of about ten square miles, and has ample depth of water; on the other hand it has only one entrance by a long, narrow channel, called Burlington Canal, a little over 200 feet wide, so that no vessel can enter without a leading wind. Toronto Bay is small, covering about four square miles; it has two entrances both narrow and shallow. Toronto has been frequently described in eulogistic terms as by far the best harbour on Lake Ontario. Mr. Alderman Manning, now Mayor of Toronto, declared it to be the only harbour of refuge on the lake, but I suspect that the worthy alderman had no clear idea of the meaning of his words. Harbours of refuge are distinguished from other harbours by larger area, superior depth of water, easy of access for ships of all sizes in all weathers, and secure anchorage, and shelter during storms. Toronto harbour is deficient in some of these principal essential qualities. Its two entrances are so shallow that no ship of burthen can enter at all, and so narrow that small vessels cannot get in without a leading wind. It is therefore not, and cannot be made, a harbour of refuge. Kingston harbour has all the qualifications of a harbour of refuge. It has four entrances, the least of which has a breadth of half a mile, and water enough to float the Great Eastern. The area of this harbour is about 14 square miles; its maximum depth is 80 feet, and it is of such ready access that ships of any burthen can enter in all winds and weathers, and obtain shelter and secure anchorage.

3. Plans Of Improvement

Many plans have been devised for improving the harbour, and among others it has been suggested that a breakwater might be built of stone to break the force of the sea from the south and west. About sixty years ago a similar breakwater was built at Plymouth in England; it was twice as long as would be required here, but only half as high, the water being much deeper at Kingston than at Plymouth. It cost about seven million of dollars and would now probably cost half as much more. Such an expenditure is out of the question. A floating breakwater is also suggested, the possibility and effect of which are questions for engineers. But in fact there is no occasion for any breakwater at all. This is a matter on which there is no opinion so valuable as that of shipmasters navigating the lakes, and these gentlemen are almost all of opinion that the harbour is so well protected by nature that no artificial shelter is necessary, and that well-formed ships at anchor within the harbour can successfully resist the effect of any wind or sea that may arise.

The harbour, however, is capable of improvement in some respects. There is a small island, or rather a heap of shingle, called Salmon Island, about two feet above the water, situated about five miles from the city, directly in the way of vessels coming down the Bay of Quinte. It is impossible to see this obstruction at night; therefore there should be a light on it. The shoal in the inner harbour, on which the tower is built, should be well defined by buoys. The other shoal in the center of the harbour should be removed if it could be effected at any reasonable cost. There is no doubt about the possibility of removing it by the use of nitro-glycerine; it is merely a question of expense to be decided by engineers. The removal of this shoal is a matter of prime necessity to the grain trade, and no effort should be spared to accomplish it. Meanwhile large buoys should be placed all about the shoal to indicate the lines when the water begins to be less than 12 feet deep.

The water above the bridge should be made more easy of access than it is. In this part of the harbour will be transacted an extensive iron and lumber business which will be greatly incommoded by the bridge. The bridge ought to be removed, and a new one erected across the Cataraqui river at Bell's Island. If this cannot be done a ship canal might be made to connect Navy Bay with Green Bay. Thus the space available for wharfs and storehouses would be doubled.

It is a fact worthy of notice that no harbor, however good, will attract trade or become a place of much resort unless it happens to be in the highway of commerce. Thus Sackett's Harbour, a most admirable haven, one of the best on Lake Ontario, has never been used at all. The magnificent harbours on the west coast of Ireland, among the best in Europe, such as Black Sod Bay, Broad Haven, Galway Bay, Valentia Harbour, Bantry, and others, are deserted, or rather have never been used for the purposes of commerce. Kingston was once the seat of a large trade, when all goods from Montreal were sent here in barges by way of Ottawa. The improvement of the navigation of the St. Lawrence by canals round the rapids caused this trade to cease, and if the canals should be further improved so as to permit the passage of grain vessels, it is not unlikely that these would cease to be unloaded at Kingston, and discharge their cargoes at Montreal directly into sea-going craft. The shipments of grain from the surrounding country do not amount to much, and it is likely that the future prosperity of Kingston will mainly depend on the lumber and ore business introduced by the Pembroke Railway and the development of the iron industry soon to be commenced on a great scale, which will probably make Kingston the Pittsburg of Canada.


p.2 Toronto, May 28th - well-known forwarder W.H. Jacques found drowned in Bay; foul play suspected.

p.4 Marine News

Jones & Miller's wharf - Schr. C.G. Mixer, Milwaukee, 18,800 bush. wheat; E.W. Rathbun, Toronto, 10,250 bush. wheat; Eliza White, Whitby, 7,670 bush. peas; prop. Bristol lightened 3,750 bush. corn. Cleared: Barges Frontenac and Alice Pacy with 58,000 bush. wheat and peas.

Coulthurst & Macphie's wharf - Arrived: schr. Westside, from Chicago, with 18,200 bush. spring wheat.

Montreal Transportation Company's wharf - Arrived: Schrs. America, Chicago, 18,000 bush. wheat; Albatross, Port Hope, 8,595 bush. wheat; tug Elfin, with six barges, Friendly, McCarthy, Idle, Index, Victor and C.; tug Glide, with four barges, Fortitude, Kinghorn, Relief and Detroit. Cleared: Tug Elfin with barges Staghound, 10,524 bush. wheat; Royal Oak, 14,510 bush. corn; Advance, 13,752 bush. wheat; Dreadnought, 10,050 bush. wheat; Utility, 11,325 bush. wheat; Albert, 12,800 bush. wheat; Arthur, 13,778 bush. wheat; tug Glide with barges Corn Crib, 19,053 bush. corn; Cleveland, 20,340 bush. corn; Harvest, 16,844 bush. corn; Faith, 6,502 bush. peas; Ingot, 7,157 bush. wheat; Energy, 13,396 bush. wheat.

Messrs. James Swift & Co.'s wharf - The steamers Corsican and Passport passed down, and the steamer Magnet up.

Port Colborne, May 27th, Down: Schrs. L.L. Lamb, Chicago, Ogdensburg, lumber; Geo. C. Finney, Chicago, Oswego, wheat; H. Fitzhugh, Milwaukee, Kingston, wheat; J.R. Richards, do., do.; G. Whitney, Toledo, Ogdensburg, lumber; Jas. Scott, Port Burwell, Thorold, staves; Geo. Thurston, Bay City, Kingston, lumber; Craftsman, do., do., staves; Wanatee, Cleveland, Toronto, coal; Prince of Wales, Bay City, Kingston, timber; Two Brothers, Cleveland, Port Hope, coal; J.S. Clark, Cleveland, Toronto, coal; Canada, Toledo, Kingston, timber; Montgomery, Bay City, Clayton, timber; Telegraph, Toledo, Oswego, corn; Lady Macdonald, Bay City, Kingston, timber; Vienna, do., do., lumber; Scud, Cleveland, Toronto, coal; Bismarck, Toledo, Kingston, timber; Hoboken, Milwaukee, Oswego; tug J. Griffin, Buffalo, Thorold, light; schrs. Florida, Milwaukee, Kingston, wheat; Wave Crest, Bay City, Kingston, staves; Brooklyn, Chicago, Oswego, corn; A. Mulvey, Chicago, Kingston, wheat; Rising Star, Milwaukee, Oswego, corn; Arctic, Cleveland, Hamilton, coal; Orient, Chicago, Kingston, wheat.

Up: Prop. Cleveland, schrs. Orkney Lass, D. Freeman, Jamaica, steam barge Westford, prop. Granite State, Sovereign, schrs. Richmond, Seaton.

The schooner North Star, built by Mr. James Bollingsby for Messrs. Howell & Alvard during the winter, was successfully launched at Port Hope, on Saturday, before a large concourse of people. She is a very fine model, and does credit to the builders.

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May 28, 1873
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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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Daily News (Kingston, ON), May 28, 1873