The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Daily News (Kingston, ON), Feb. 11, 1874

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Board of Trade Annual Meeting

Annual Report (part)

Welland Canal

Your council are pleased to notice that the contracts for the enlargement of the Welland Canal have been mainly given out, and no doubt will be vigorously prosecuted. The enlargement of this great international work may be expected to greatly increase the volume of trade flowing from the west and, will be of particular benefit to this port.

Coteau Canal

During the year the Board petitioned the Dominion Legislature, praying that a canal might be constructed on the north side of the St. Lawrence from Coteau Landing to the Cedars, being of opinion that it would afford much greater facilities to the carrying trade than that now in use. We earnestly trust that the Government may see its way to have this canal constructed at an early day.

Harbour Improvements

We have again to call the attention of the Board to this important question. At no time did your Board consider it more needed than at present in view of the enlargement of the Welland Canal now being proceeded with. We hope to see the matter brought before the Government at an early day, and that they will carry out the necessary improvement as a link of the great highway from the west to the ocean.

Storm Signal Service

The Signal Service Office, under the superintendence of Mr. Samuel Woods, assisted by Messrs. D.B. McTavish and R. Shaw, has continued to forward daily to Toronto, three telegraphic messages on the state of the weather, and other meteorological data. In the month of August a signal drum was sent from Toronto, and it has been placed under charge of W. Power, Esq., at the end of whose wharf an apparatus for hoisting has been prepared. Since that time fourteen storm warnings have been forwarded, and it serves to demonstrate the utility of the science, that eleven of these warnings were found correct. It is hoped that as soon as the season of navigation opens, some means may be secured of publishing the daily observations. The greatest difficulty at present is to get them to the newspaper offices without sending a special messenger. As the observers must visit the telegraph office thrice daily, and as the Press telegrams are also procured there, the observer could easily bring the signal report, and have it taken away with the others by the newspaper messenger.

That all may see the importance of the service, the following from the Cleveland Leader, is most valuable:

"There are a number of men in Congress who have never yet been able to see what good that branch of the service has done, and there may be, accordingly, a tendency to decry the comparatively small appropriation necessary to keep the Signal Bureau in service. It will be, in our judgement, a serious mistake if the Retrenchment Committee puts the pruning knife to this important department. Every dollar that it has cost thus far has been saved over and over again in the prevention of costly disasters to shipping. In order to make more apparent the value of the weather signals to mariners, let us compare the disasters on the lakes alone for three years previous to the establishment of the Storm-Signal Service with those of the three years after the system was in operation. The total number of disasters reported was:

In 1867 931

In 1868 983

In 1869 1,002

Total 2,916

"The Storm Signal Bureau established stations along the lakes in 1870. Mark the record of the years which succeeded:

For 1870 971

For 1871 750

For 1872 314

Total 2,035

"There is an instructive point in these last figures. The storm-signal was first hung out at this port, if our memory serves, in August, 1870. Before it got well at work, the season was well advanced, and, moreover, the knowing mariners could not, for some time, get it into their heads that the man with the red flags and lanterns at the telegraphic office "could tell them anything about navigating the lakes." So, for most of the remainder of the season of 1870, the lake men paid very little heed to the signals, and the consequence was that the disasters of that year were about the same as in 1867 and 1868. By the next year, however, the lake captains began to see that there was something in the signal business after all. The more closely they obeyed the warning of the red flags and lanterns, the less risks they ran, and accordingly, when the shipwrecks for 1872 came to be added up, they reached a total of only 314 - less than a third of those of 1869. It must also be remembered that 1872 was a year of extraordinary activity on the lakes, and was cut short abruptly by the most sudden and severe freezing up that had ever been seen in November. Search the figures anywhere, and the same record of testimony will be found in favour of the value of the Signal Service. A single telegram to the station at Savannah during the month of September, 1871, caused the display of a red flag on a bright and beautiful afternoon, and a large fleet of vessels about to set sail remained in port; before morning the memorable cyclone of that month burst upon our Southern coast, destroying nearly every sailing vessel caught absent from sheltered moorings. That single telegram saved, in that one instance, money enough to run the Signal Bureau for a dozen years. With all these facts in view we venture to hope that such members of Congress as represent coast districts will see that the Weather Bureau is not sacrificed to the interests of those from the interior. The member of Kentucky, for instance, or Arkansas, or Missouri, represents a constituency entirely uninterested in the property which the Signal Service saves. Such a one might very naturally think the Bureau a sort of fancy scientific plaything which the country might well get along without. Those who live along the coasts, whose lives and fortunes often depend upon the staunchness of a ship or the timely warning of a gale, know better. Real, consistent economy in national expenditure was never more imperatively demanded than now, but this is not the time for any such saving at the spigot and leaking at the bung as the abolition of the Signal Service would be."...

Capt. Middleton brought up the report of the committee appointed to draw up a paper to be submitted to the Delegates to the Dominion Board of Trade respecting the best method of protecting the lives of passengers sailing on our lakes and rivers. The report is as follows:

The committee appointed by the Kingston Board of Trade to offer some suggestions by which passenger steamers on our inland waters, may be more efficiently equipped and managed, in order to lessen the risk and danger to passengers travelling by them, beg leave to report:

That in their opinion, the first great requisite is, that the officer in command of such steamer, ought to be a person of large experience who has it were, risen from the ranks, who has previously learned to obey, in order that he may be the better qualified to command, and who ought to have discretionary power to ship and discharge any or all of his crews at pleasure, as without this privilege, no proper discipline can be maintained. He ought to know, not only the route over which he usually travels, but should also have a general knowledge of all courses, distances, and harbours, in the lake or lakes and rivers he navigates, so that he may at all times be self-reliant, and not have to depend as a rule, on the superior knowledge of a subordinate (line unreadable) that he should hold a certificate of competency from a Board of Examiners appointed by Government.

They are also of opinion, that only persons who have been examined, and hold first class certificates, should be competent to act as Chief Engineer, of such steamers.

Your committee would recommend, that all passenger steamers of 300 tons burthen, and upwards, should be provided with at least eight boats, of not less than the following dimensions, viz.: length, twenty (20) feet, breadth, seven (7) feet, and depth, two and a half (2 1/2) feet, each boat having the necessary compliment of oars, and other tackle, that in side wheel steamers, two boats should be placed before and two abaft the paddle boxes on both sides, that cranes fully rigged should be secured opposite each pair of boats, and, that when under weigh, on the lake, one boat at each pair of cranes should be hoisted up and swung clear of the steamer, with the cranes properly stayed and braced, so that at a moment's notice, they may be lowered into the water, thereby saving much precious time, when required, on an emergency.

Your committee think that it should be imperative that the officers and crew of such steamers be trained in the rapid lowering and manning of such boats at least once a week during the season of navigation, and that each such training be noted in a journal kept by the chief officer of the steamer.

As the main decks of steamers are occasionally loaded to their fullest capacity with freight, the hose at present provided for the extinguishment of fire, cannot at all times be made quickly serviceable, your committee would recommend, in addition, a longitudinal 3-inch iron pipe, attached to the fire engine, should be run along under and be secured to the promenade deck, to within thirty feet of the stem and stem post, and that at the ends of such pipe sufficient hose with nozzles be coupled with it, so that in the event of fire, the hose nearest it may be instantly turned upon it, thereby materially increasing the possibility of quenching it before it has gained formidable headway.

Your committee are of opinion that no passenger vessel propelled by steam should be allowed to carry as freight, gunpowder, high wines, petroleum, or any other explosive material whatever.

They would suggest also that inspectors be appointed by the Government, whose duty it should be to see that all regulations are attended to and obeyed.

All of which is respectfully submitted,

Lewis Middleton,

R.M. Ford,

G.J. Tandy,

Wm. Stewart.

Kingston, Feb. 10th, 1874

After a brief discussion and a slight alteration, on motion of Mr. Cunningham, seconded by Mr. McNeil, the report was adopted.

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Feb. 11, 1874
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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), Feb. 11, 1874