The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
H. S. Pickands (Propeller), U95836, aground, 1 Oct 1891

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We have received a copy of the report of the local inspectors at Chicago, Cyrus H. Sinclair and Stuart H. Moore, to James A. Dumont, supervising inspector general of steam vessel of the United States, on the explosion of the boiler of the tug CHARLES W. PARKER, in Chicago river on Oct. 4. The inspectors deal fully with the accident and attribute it to the use of Chicago river water for making steam. The PARKER with three other tugs was engaged in an effort to release the steamer H. S. PICKANDS from the bottom of the east draw of Archer avenue bridge when the explosion occurred, resulting in the loss of ten lives and injury to others.
"The boat was working with a full bead of steam," says the report of the inspectors, "when she blew out the crown sheet of her boiler. The boiler was found about 500 feet from the scene of the explosion, and an examination showed that it was in good condition, except that the crown sheet and stays leading to top of dome and shell had disappeared, the fusible plug being but partly melted out. Three days later, we examined the hull of the boat which had been placed in dry dock and found the missing crown sheet with nearly all of the stays attached. An examination of the engine disclosed the fact that at the time of the explosion, or an instant before it, the engine had been reversed from going ahead to backing up motion. We have made a very careful investigation of the cause leading up to this accident, and find that the captain and engineer of the boat were considered very careful, reliable and experienced men, having had years of experience in this line of work, and they both knew full well the dangers of the locality in which they were engaged. The water in this portion of the river is of a very dangerous character, owing to the proximity of the slaughter and gas houses on the river, and from the facts that we have been able to obtain it is our opinion that this accident was caused by the use of this water for making steam. The effect was to cause. the boiler to foam badly, thereby making it almost impossible for the engineer to keep the water in the boiler at the proper height. The sudden stopping and starting of the engine, if the water in the boiler was low, would be sufficient to cause this accident. This boiler was well built and well taken care of and under ordinary condition,-, would have lasted a life-time."
      The Marine Review
      November 5, 1891

Steam screw H.S. PICKANDS. U. S. No. 95836. Of 625.46 tons gross; 505.97 tons net. Built Grand Haven, Mich., 1884. Home port, Detroit, Mich. 181.4 x 32.5 x 13.4
      Merchant Vessel List, U. S., 1891

Media Type:
Item Type:
Reason: aground
Lives: nil
Remarks: Got off
Date of Original:
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Geographic Coverage:
  • Illinois, United States
    Latitude: 41.85003 Longitude: -87.65005
William R. McNeil
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Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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H. S. Pickands (Propeller), U95836, aground, 1 Oct 1891