Three Days In The Lake - Steamer NIKO Now Fast in Ice at Jaws of Pier - Lost Big Anchor and Forty Fathoms of Chain Off Calf island Shoals - Came Into Port With Fuel Bunkers nearly Empty - Captain's Story.
After being buffeted about for seventy-two hours by the angry waves of Lake Ontario, the
steamer NIKO, bound light from Toronto, made the entrance to the harbor at 7:30 o'clock last night, but was unable to get to her dock because of the ice that had formed in the river. For a week, almost, the weather in the lake has been thick. About two o¦clock yesterday afternoon it cleared and Captain Beggs, who had been pounding about the foot of the lake, found himself short of fuel and he started for this port. When he reached here there was not over half a ton of coal in the bunkers and it was impossible to force his way through the ice with the coal on hand.
About six o'clock last night, Light Keeper Cotter, who was on watch at the beacon, heard the distant tooting of a steamer¦s whistle in the lake. It was very thick, impossible to see any distance through the steam that arose from the water. Gradually the sound of the whistle grew more distinct and the light keepers knew that some poor fellow was trying to pick his way through the fog into the harbor.
Within an hour the hull of the steamer NIKO, like an animated iceberg, so thoroughly was she covered with ice, poked herself out of the of, almost on top of the beacon. There was a succession of quick orders from the bridge, the rattling of wheel chains, the sharp, short signal whistle to back hard, and the big boat was lost again in the mist, but only for a minute or two, when she appeared headed up midstream against the thick flow of ice that had frozen there solid.
The long signal whistles for a tug brought no response and about 7:30 o'clock a couple of sailors left the steamer, walked ashore on the ice and came uptown for assistance. About the same time, a telegram was received from Sodus announcing that a schooner was in distress off Bear Creek, west of Pultneyville, and asking that a tug be sent to her.
The CHARLEY FERRIS was at dock, but had no steam and was without fuel. Captain Ferris called his crew, however, and within a short time the tug was at McMurrich's taking a
quantity of fuel aboard. At ten o¦clock she started to break her way out of the harbor to release the NIKO and at five o¦clock this morning she was forced to abandon the attempt and returned to dock.
Captain Ferris says that the Northeast wind that had been blowing for a day or two held back the flow ice in the jaws of the pier, until it froze and in places, he says, it is two or three feet thick and will remain solid until a good, stiff sea from the Northwest breaks it up.
Trip of the NIKO.
Captain Beggs, when seen today, said: "We left Toronto harbor Thursday evening and
should have been here before noon of Friday. I did get outside of here Friday and blew my whistle, but could get no response. The weather was very thick. Friday night we were at the foot of the lake and how id did blow and snow. Saturday morning we anchored off Calf island, and there lost our big anchor and forty fathoms of chain. We were tossed about like a cockle shell and the big chain that held us snapped like a piece of twine. Once we were tossed upon the reef but we didn¦t stay there, the next sea knocking us off into deeper water. I don¦t believe that I have ever seen the wind blow as hard as it did Saturday.
"It was almost impossible to manage the boat. Had she been loaded we wouldn't have
minded it so much, but light we got an awful tossing. Our greatest anxiety was out fuel supply and yesterday morning when we found that the wind had moderated we started for Oswego, but it was so thick we couldn't tell how accurately we were steering. For about two hours in the afternoon it cleared up and we could see around for a distance of five or six miles and then we laid our course and reached here as you know. We will have some good weather yet, I hope. It is our intention to load coal for Toronto at the Downey trestle."
Coaling the NIKO.
This afternoon Engineer Churchill, in charge of Government work at this port, had a gang of men at work with dynamite blowing up the ice to permit the NIKO to enter the harbor. C.H. Bond sent about thirty men down to the pier to carry coal out in baskets to the NIKO. Six tons will be put aboard the steamer this afternoon when Captain Beggs will begin the work of forcing the ice from the lake side.
Had the harbor not been frozen up today all the sailing vessels might have gotten away and reached the North Shore in a few hours. This afternoon the steamer WESTFORD tried to force her way through the ice, but stuck before she got to the big light and couldn't make an impression on the ice fields. When she finally had gotten through she was followed by the schooners ANANDALE, QUEEN OF THE LAKES, W.J. SUFFEL EMERALD for Kingston.
Mon., Dec. 15, 1902
The steamer NIKO reached the O. & W. trestle last night about six o'clock. Captain Beggs said today that he was not certain whether another load would be taken to Kingston.
Tues., December 16, 1902.
Boat has Fierce Battle With Storm - Steamer NIKO Arrived Last Night Short of Coal - Thrilling Experience - Left Toronto Thursday and Spent Four Days on the Lake - Did not Have Coal Enough to Break Through the Ice.
About seven o'clock last night the steamer NIKO, Captain Thomas Beggs of Chicago, arrived off this port and her whistles were kept blowing to announce the fact. Captain Anderson and the Life Saving Crew were on the East pier and were told by those aboard the steamer that she was without coal having exhausted her entire supply on the run from Toronto.
The NIKO left Toronto Thursday and had the most exciting experience that Captain Beggs ever had. his steamer was in the lake battling with the waves, cold and snow Thursday night, all day and all night Friday and until early Saturday morning, when she reached the Galloup islands. here he took shelter and later in the day headed for this port only to be driven back by another storm. Sunday morning the steamer made another attempt to reach this port and finally succeeded though not without difficulty.
The NIKO is frozen in the ice about twenty feet North of the lighthouse and this morning coal and provisions were carried to her in baskets. When the steamer reached here it was announced that she was without fuel this being caused by the long and rough voyage she experienced.
Captain Beggs when seen this afternoon said that he had never had such an experience in his life. he said it snowed almost continually since Thursday and the weather was extremely severe. He said if the boat had been out a little while longer she would have been entirely out of coal.
While endeavoring to break through the ice last night Captain Charley Ferris of the tug FERRIS had a narrow escape from serious injury. he was at the wheel and in some manner the wheel forced him to the floor of the wheelhouse. The Captain is a little sore to-day, but beyond this is all right although if the wheel handle struck him he might have been seriously injured.
Oswego Daily Times
Mon., December 15, 1902
The steamer NIKO succeeded in breaking the ice in the channel about half past eight o'clock last night and is now lying at the O. & W. trestle. After Captain Beggs opened the channel the steamer WESTFORD expected to get away about midnight with a fleet of schooners for Kingston but the weather was not favorable and she did not get away until ten o'clock this morning, when she left towing the schooners ANANDALE, FLEET WING, QUEEN OF THE LAKES and TRADE WIND.
The schooners EMERALD, CORNELIA, ANNIE MINNIS and W.J. SUFFEL followed them each sailing alone. The SEA FOAM, CLARA YOWELL, NORTHERN LIGHT and BURTON, coal laden, may get away before night fall.
Captain Beggs is anxious to take a load of coal to Toronto or tow the remaining schooners to Kingston. He expects to make another trip and then lay up here.
Oswego Daily Times
Tues., December 16, 1902