Inland Seas Shut.
What Happens When Navigation
Closes on the Great Lakes
Season Just Ended a Record Breaker
For Tonnage - How Sweet Water
Sailors Spend the Winter -Improve-
ments Planned For Next Year.
Sault Ste. Marie, Dec. 30. - Once more navigation on the Great Lakes has closed, and a record breaking season is at an end. As early as July all records for commerce through the Canadian and American canals at this point were broken by more than 250,000 tons, and while the increase was not proportionately greater during the subsequent months yet it has been maintained at very satisfactory rate.
It is impossible as yet to give complete figures of the traffic for the year, but the ore receipts at the lower lake harbors, which is the greatest future of the annual summing up, will probably reach 20 million tons. This is an increase over last year, but not up to the hopes entertained at the opening of navigation. It is very likely, however, that the steel trust, which has this year had its first experience with lake navigation, will so extend its operations that the season of 1902 with greatly surpass all preceding ones.
The closing of navigation on the Great Lakes has some very interesting features. Now is the time when the gold old lake captains can enjoy seats by cheery fires, smoke their pipes and tell stories by the hour without a care for compass or chart, stormy seas or fierce gales. Now, too, is the time when the men who serve under the these same old captains hie themselves to inland points to seek occupation for winter months.
Even before the season is formally declared at an end the first approach of bad weather is signal for heaver desertions by sailors. To some it is a call to cease work completely, to go into winter quarters themselves - to hibernate, as it were. Most fellows of this stamp hang about the docks and the dock grog shops during the season of idleness, doing themselves and those around them very little good. Those who feel inclined to work go as a rule to the northern woods, where they can earn from $30 to $45 a month and their board. The deserters are especially numerous on Lake Superior, owing to the fact that when the boards are on that lake they are nearer to the busy woods, while sailors who stay on their vessels until they reach a lower lake port find themselves compelled to pay car fare over a long route.
Marine activity is not at a complete standstill, however, despite the closing of the ice. More than half a hundred new lake vessels will be built during the winter, and this of course means employment for a number of men. It is also planned to push mechanical and dock improvements at the various harbors and at the Soo. Hundreds of these improvements will soon be under way, involving in each case the expenditure of of thousands of dollars and the employment of many men. Even modest improvements in such lines cost immense sums. The principal work to be done is the construction of big docks at various points, and more men will probably be employed in this work than has been in the case of many winters.
On the lake vessels themselves there is much actvity long afar navigation has ceased. Now is the time for house-cleaning. Instead of waiting until spring and cleaning things up just before the opening of navigation the marine dwellers proceed to make all ship-shape the moment navigation has ceased.
As for the lake vessels themselves, there has been a great improvement in the course of a comparatively few years. A quarter of a century ago few vessels traversed the lake winters with registers as great as 1,000 tons; today a number are afloat which when increased draft is available will carry 4,500 to 6,000 tons. A quarter of a century ago sailing vessels were the rule; today steam is largely the motive power and is supplied by engines of high economy and of improved construction. A few side wheel steamers are doing service yet, but the propeller and in some instances the twin screws are utilized for most vessels. On the Great Lakes, as elsewhere, improvement has been the order of the day.