The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
British Whig (Kingston, ON), 27 Apr 1912

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p.1 Life-Saving Equipment Must Be Adequate - on Canadian vessels on Great Lakes.


Sufficiently Supplied With Life-Saving Appliances?

A Whig reporter "butted into" a group of men, Friday, in the lower part of the city, of whom over half were experienced marine men, and they were discussing the question, "Are the vessels that ply our inland waters sufficiently supplied with life-boats and life-saving appliances?" This has been brought to the attention of the public more so this spring than ever, on account of the recent Titanic disaster, with its enormous death roll.

It was the opinion of one of the marine men, and finally endorsed by most of those present, that some change should be made in the rules and regulations respecting the equipment of vessels with lifeboats, life preservers and life-saving appliances by which every passenger which crosses the great lakes should at least have a chance of being accommodated in a lifeboat or raft should occasion arise that this would be necessary. There are two ways of doing this. First, to provide the necessary life-boats on the steamers crossing the lakes, or to cut down the number of passengers they are rated to carry.

The opinion was that the only waters where life is really in danger is on the lakes. On the St. Lawrence, a short run out of the channel, and the captain could beach his boat, should she be in danger of sinking, and on the Rideau river, the chances for loss of life by drowning from a wrecked vessel are certainly less.

One, who from his long experiences on these waters, carries a good deal of weight, said that if the owners were not inclined to carry lifeboats, equal to the number of passengers they are rated to carry, a regulation should be passed giving the vessels on the great lakes license to carry the same number of passengers as they have lifeboat accommodation for. When these boats came down to the river their passenger list could be increased.

For example, a steamboat having accommodation for only 250 passengers should only be allowed to carry 250 passengers on the lakes, and when she was plying on the St. Lawrence river, say, from Kingston to Montreal, her passenger rate might be increased to 500.

This is not only a local idea, but people in several other places have spoken of the same plan. Which of the two alternatives the boat owners would care to adopt is a little difficult to say. To have to cut down their passenger lists, would mean a great deal, financially, to them.

The number of passengers allowed on passenger steamers may be found by multiplying the length by the breadth of the vessel at the water line, (in feet) and dividing the product by a factor of safety, according to the class of vessel. The product of safety for vessels navigating on the great lakes is nine; and for lake coasting, harbor, or river, ferry and excursion steamers, is lowered to six.

No steamboats with passengers on board is allowed, under the steamboat inspection act, to proceed from port to port on the Great Lakes or River St. Lawrence, unless there are on board, or attached, good, properly equipped boats of not less than seventeen feet in length, five feet breadth of beam, and one foot nine inches inside depth, with sufficient oars. These shall be required according to the registered tonnage of the steamboat. A boat of fifty tons or less is required to have one boat, two for every boat over fifty and below 300 tons. At least three boats are called for on vessels of 300 tons and upwards, and if such steamboat is twenty-five tons or less registered tonnage, she shall carry one good boat, of size and equipment satisfactory to the inspector. Steamboats of 300 tons registered tonnage plying on the Great Lakes or River St. Lawrence shall be equipped with boats twenty-two feet in length, six feet beam, by two feet six inches in depth.

Life-boats, of course, take up considerable room on the decks of vessels. There are the collapsible lifeboats but the trouble with these is they "collapse" and very often at the wrong time, and drownings occur.

But there is a comparatively new invention in life-saving device which has proved itself, it is understood, to be the nearest thing to perfection yet. It is the Carley life boat, manufactured in the United States. These rafts are claimed to be non-sinkable and non-collapsible, and they are always right side up no matter in what manner it is thrown overboard. There is a copper air tight tube around the (line unreadable) a slat bottom, about two feet down in the water, and men, women, and children may stand in it for hours, in any sea. It requires no experienced oarsmen. The Carley raft may be piled on the deck, on top of each other, if necessary. They are made all sizes, one of the largest measuring nine by fourteen feet, weighing 525 pounds, and having a capacity for forty to forty-five people.

They have been tried and adopted by the United States navy, many ocean liners, and used on many steamers. The Canadian government, however, thinking this was something new and untried, has not touched it, while the Americans, thinking it might be an improvement, gave it a try.

One of the old mariners said that it takes a disaster like the recent one to make Canadians act, and perhaps he was right. However, many of the members of parliament are now alive on the subject of having sufficient life saving-boats and appliances on board the vessels.

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27 Apr 1912
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  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 44.22976 Longitude: -76.48098
Rick Neilson
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pd [more details]
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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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British Whig (Kingston, ON), 27 Apr 1912