The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
British Whig (Kingston, ON), 24 Apr 1905

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All persons who suffered damage to property by the explosion of the gas buoy, on the 18th inst., are requested to put in their claims in writing, with details, to the undersigned for the information of the Department of Marine and Fisheries.

J. McDonald Mowat, Clarence Street.

Kingston, April 22nd, 1905.



A Ghastly Find On Barge Witbeck.

The evidence is accumulating that the bodies of mate Guillard and Capt. Couillard were blown to pieces by the gas buoy explosion at the steamer Scout on Tuesday last. Isaac Asselstine and several other men working on the Cataraqui bridge intimate that after the explosion they saw something flying through the air and far out onto the lake. It is thought it was the cage of the buoy and into which the body of Guillard was crushed by the explosion. It is not likely that any of the remains will be found near to the shore as the force of the explosion would have scattered them far around.

The Oswego, N.Y., Palladium says that Capt. Mallett, of the barge Witbeck, had a ghastly find when he began to unfurl his topsails on Thursday evening. The barge arrived with the steamer Avon, from Kingston. It was part of a human rib with shreds of flesh attached. The Wibeck while at Kingston lay in close proximity to the steamer Scout, upon which there was a fatal gas explosion that has, up to the present, resulted in the death of at least four people. The explosion blew the victims in all sections, several pieces of their bodies being picked up on the deck of the Witbeck. The piece that was blown into the sail was not found until the barge was made fast at the Lackawanna trestle on Thursday afternoon.

The Cape Vincent Eagle says it seems almost incredible that an explosion of any kind, no matter how severe, could jar and shake buildings, but the one that occurred at Kingston was felt by almost everybody in this village. Business places and private residences were shaken with a suddenness that was almost bewildering and created much surprise and speculation until the facts of the case were received by wire in this village. At the Eagle office the shock was not so perceptible, on account of the structure being of brick and unusually substantial. In all wooden buildings the explosion caused a pronounced vibration of timbers and glass. That the affair must have been terrible and appalling to the people of Kingston cannot be questioned.

The Scout Raised.

The wreck of the government steamer Scout was raised Sunday afternoon, from the shallow slip west of the dry dock. It presents a sad appearance, little being left beside the hull. The work of raising the boat was performed by the Donnelly Wrecking and Salvage company, and John Donnelly had immediate charge of operations. No trace could be found of the remains of the two missing men, and the concensus of opinion is that they will never be recovered, that they were blown to pieces and scattered far and wide.

Expert On Acetylene Gas.

The accident to the government steamer Scout at Kingston was probably due to undue compression of gas. This was the opinion given by William H. Wardwell, general manager of the Continental Heat and Light company, of Montreal, when asked by a Montreal Herald representative as to what he considered the cause of the catastrophe.

"The accident," said Mr. Wardwell, "was undoubtedly due to the fact that the gas was compressed - a thing that never happens in any other than large cisterns where large quantities of gas are stored for use over a considerable length of time. There was, possibly, a pressure of 400 or 500 pounds. Here in Montreal, there is no such condition, the gas being at practically atmospheric pressure.

"The acetylene gas in question was to be used as buoy lights, etc. That is, the gas was compressed could be charged with enough to keep it for perhaps six months. The danger arose not from generating the gas, but from storing it.

"The acetylene gas used in Montreal is under no more pressure than the city gas. They take gas at that stage and submit it to increased pressure to reduce the volume. For example, in one cubic foot of space, instead of only having one cubic foot of gas, they might have twenty or thirty feet. There is the trouble at once.

"Compressed gas can be used up to a certain pressure with safety, but it requires skilled operators and careful handling. It is precisely the same as in the case of a steam boiler. Accidents to these machines are of frequent enough occurrence from perfectly mechanical reasons. Three hundred pounds' pressure to the inch, whether it is of steam, air or gas, is the same in result. The cylinder will burst as easily from one as from the other cause, and in this case the real damage was done in exactly the same way as from the bursting of a boiler. The gas did not burn until after the explosion had taken place.

"Of course the exact cause of the accident cannot be given until a fuller investigation has been held, but it probably resulted from the flaw in the apparatus, as a steam explosion would be caused by a crack in a boiler sheet."



The tug Emerson cleared for Oswego with two barges.

The schooner Annandale goes into Davis' dry dock tomorrow.

The government tug Trudeau has come out of the dry dock.

The steamer Advance will enter the government dry dock for some slight repairs.

The schooner Clara Youell, from Oswego, is unloading soft coal at Swift's wharf.

The schooner Metzner brought the first cargo of hard coal here this season, to Soward's wharf.

The schooners Laura D. from Napanee, Ariadne from Stella and Echo from Belleville, unloaded grain at Richardson's elevator.

The schooner Clara Youell was the first vessel to cross the lake and enter Kingston harbor this season. She reached port this morning, coal laden, and is discharging at James Swift & company's coal shed.

Yesterday the steamer New Island Wanderer covered the ferry route. The tug Frontenac carried the island passengers on Saturday. The steamer Fawcett is in Davis' dry dock for repairs but will be out tonight.

p.5 Her Name Changed - The steamer Tom Fawcett will no longer be known by that name, permission having been obtained from the government to change the name to the Wolfe Islander, and today she left Davis dry dock bearing her new name proudly.

p.6 Cape Vincent, April 22nd - ....The annual meeting of the Thousand Island Steamboat company will be held at the office of M.E. Lee, this village, June 5th...... The people of Cape Vincent are pleased to know that the steambarge Waterlily, hailing from Kingston, is to appear as usual, but greatly repaired. Cape Vincent people consider the Waterlily a kind of a "movable landmark," and her appearance always denotes that communication between Canada and the United States is not interrupted.....Engineer Churchill, Oswego, paid a visit to the village last week on matters pertaining to the breakwater. As soon as the weather will permit, the superstructure of last year's work will be finished and the new extension of 250 or 300 feet commenced.


Steamer Scout Inquiry.

There is little to report concerning the government enquiry into the steamer Scout disaster. On Saturday, George Lessard, engineer, and Peter Boulanger, fireman, were examined. Today, other members of the crew gave their evidence. All of it is in substance the same as appeared in the Whig last Wednesday. The important witness still to be examined is Capt. Fraser, whose explanations concerning the acceptance of the buoys by the government without guarantee, as alleged, and lack of testing afterwards, will be interesting.

An interested spectator at the enquiry is John R. Arnoldi, Toronto, formerly chief engineer of the public works department, who is to give evidence at the Mullen inquest this afternoon. It is said he may give forth something startling.

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24 Apr 1905
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  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 44.22976 Longitude: -76.48098
Rick Neilson
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Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
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British Whig (Kingston, ON), 24 Apr 1905