The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Oswego Palladium (Oswego, NY), Tuesday, April 30, 1872

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An Arctic Voyage on Lake Ontario

Yesterday at about two o'clock P.M., the steamers Lawrence, Capt. Reed, and Milwaukee, Capt. Lamphere, of the Northern Transportation line, entered this port and were soon moored at the Company's wharf. As it was known that a fleet of propellers had left Ogdensburg a week since bound up the lakes, and as the appearance in our port of these two were the first evidence that any of them had passed through the ice fields which had blocked their progress, an unusual degree of interest was felt in them, and a large crowd soon gathered at the wharves.

The Lawrence had seven or eight passengers for the West, and the Milwaukee also had a number. The former had nine horses on board. The incident of the passage, the detention in the ice at the lower end of Lake Ontario, and the exciting scenes incident thereto, as related by the passengers, were equal to the description of Capt. Kane of scenes in his Arctic voyage.

The Oswegatchie left Ogdensburg on Saturday morning, the 21st, at daybreak; the Lawrence on Monday at one o'clock; the Young America on Tuesday morning; the Empire the same day; the Milwaukee on Wednesday. This fleet of steamers collected at Cape Vincent, which point they reached without serious obstructions from ice in the St. Lawrence. The Lawrence left Cape Vincent on Tuesday at two o'clock and pushed out into Lake Ontario to encounter the ice, and to enter upon a five days struggle to pass the frozen barrier.

The others followed the Lawrence one at a time; but did not come up with it until Thursday, when a fleet of thirteen propellers, some of them bound down, were in sight, wedged in by the immense field of ice. At one time nine of these propellers were within hailing distance.

The passengers described the scene presented by this spectacle as beautiful and sublime. The expanse of ice was boundless. Thirteen of these beautiful craft stood out upon the frozen surface, puffing and struggling for progress through the icy mass. This struggle lasted from Tuesday the 23d until Sunday morning the 28th. The incidents were of the most exciting nature. Sometimes the propellers would push their way rapidly for several miles through the mass of ice; then again would come on a struggle for hours, when the fleet would not progress a rod.

Some days a progress of miles would be made and nightfall would close the struggle; when daylight next morning would reveal the discouraging fact that during the darkness the fleet drifted for several miles backward beyond the point made the day before.

Luckily, the stewards of the several propellers had taken in a good stock of provisions at the Cape, and there was no lack in the bill of fare. The passengers passed away the time pleasantly in games of "euchre," and alternately "taking a hand" with the captains and crews in the contest with the ice.

Unfortunately for the poor horses upon the Lawrence, but a limited supply of provender was on board. The oats were all consumed, and for several days the poor brutes were without hay. On Saturday it was discovered that the City of Boston, bound down, had a cargo of corn, and was lying from half to three quarters of a mile from the Lawrence. A boat was got overboard, and by dragging over the ice when necessary, and pushing it through the water when possible, and by carrying planks to bridge over the chasms in the ice, a supply of corn was transferred to the Lawrence, and temporary relief furnished the famished animals.

On Sunday morning Captain Reed, who was in the advance, found himself several miles below the False Ducks, and discovered that the wind had made an opening in the ice towards the Canada shore, like a canal, sufficient for the passage of the Lawrence. This he at once entered, followed by the Milwaukee, and soon discovered another similar opening leading out into clear water in the lake. This he also followed, feeling his way along carefully by the use of the lead, until he passed out of the ice, after the five days struggle, the most remarkable and exciting, without doubt ever experienced on Lake Ontario.

Captain Reed informed us that for more than thirty years he has navigated the Lakes and has never experienced anything like this before. he represents this ice flow as covering the entire area of the end of the lake. A north east wind, he thinks, is necessary to break it up, and drive it upon the Lake when it would disappear or cease to be troublesome. This field of ice is very thick, reported by passengers who measured it at from ten to eighteen feet deep, having been packed thus by the force of the winds.

Some places it was found to be spongy and soft, through which the propellers would pass quite readily. In others the ice was solid and little broken. Capt. Reed was as bronzed and as sun burnt as though just returned from an expedition among the icebergs of the Arctic Ocean. Passengers all speak in terms of the highest praise of the coolness, perseverance and energy of Capt. Reed, as well as of his gentlemanly and social qualities. They also speak highly of the efforts of the steward of the Lawrence, Mr. Mitchell.

Our informant reports the Oswegatchie, Empire, and Granite State, bound up, and the City of Boston, bound down, as still in the ice on Sunday morning. The Toledo and Lowell, were reported as having worked through the ice and entered the St. Lawrence. While others of the fleet, which followed the Lawrence out of the ice, passed directly up the lake to the Welland Canal.

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Tuesday, April 30, 1872
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Richard Palmer
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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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Oswego Palladium (Oswego, NY), Tuesday, April 30, 1872