The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Detroit Post and Tribune (Detroit, MI), 7 Nov, 1883

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In talking over the risks incurred in investing in steamboat property a few days ago two vessel owners discussed the subject of collisions and the decreased liability of their happening at the present time as compared with 10 or 15 years ago. "The navigation of the lakes," said one, "is now reduced to a science, and the danger of accident from collision is nothing like what it was a few years ago. In olden times it was not unusual to meet 75 vessels or more between here and Point au Pelee, while now you might meet about a dozen, and most of them are steamers. Then grain was carried in numerous small vessels, the largest of which carried what would now be considered a trifling cargo. Now the cargoes of a dozen of those schooners is taken in one steamship, and instead of having a small fleet to pass, you have only one boat, and that, being propelled by steam, can be handled better than any one of the small vessels. This one fact alone reduces the chances of a collision very greatly. Again, the pilots are better skilled, the rules of navigation better understood, there are more lights along the shore, and the system of examining officers renders it much more likely that an incompetent man will be in charge of any department on board a steamer. From these and many other reasons sailing is much less risky than formerly."

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Though the logic seems perfect, I've always been a bit leery of unattributed articles like this, so I tried to put together some figures to back up or refute the claims. Below are the numbers of major shipping collisions, by decade, according to my records. I leave it to you to decide whether the reduction in the number of collisions in that period was significant.
pre 1830 - none
1830's - 2
1840's - 20
1850's - 53
1860's - 76
1870's - 57
1880's - 64
1890's - 65
1900's - 53
1910's - 32
1920's - 18
1930's - 10
1940's - 9
1950's - 6
1960's - 2
1970's - 4
1980's - 1
1990's - 2
Date of Original:
7 Nov, 1883
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Dave Swayze
Copyright Statement:
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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Detroit Post and Tribune (Detroit, MI), 7 Nov, 1883