The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Oswego Palladium (Oswego, NY), Mon., Dec. 15, 1902

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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.

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Mon., Dec. 15, 1902
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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), Mon., Dec. 15, 1902