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Thread: Algoma Shipreck, Whaleback Barge 115

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    RBW Member s. McWilliam is on a distinguished road s. McWilliam is on a distinguished road s. McWilliam's Avatar
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    Algoma Shipreck, Whaleback Barge 115

    I have uploaded a couple of my early documenty films, Whaleback Barge 115 and Algoma Shipwreck to youtube.
     
    As I said they are early, 115 was shot on super eight because that is all we had then. Both are Lake Superior shipwrecks perhaps of interest to some of the members.
    Scott McWilliam

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    RBW Member cmalinowski is an unknown quantity at this point cmalinowski's Avatar
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    HammerMeg

    Re: Algoma Shipreck, Whaleback Barge 115

    Cool. Thanks. I believe I read something in either ADM or WDM about the whaleback. Interesting design.

    Chris

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    RBW Member s. McWilliam is on a distinguished road s. McWilliam is on a distinguished road s. McWilliam's Avatar
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    Re: Algoma Shipreck, Whaleback Barge 115

    Interesting design and an interesting story behind the design. . . .


    They were built by Alexander McDougall who was born in what is now Kitchener Ontario, then known as Berlin (the name lost popularity with WW1 and WW2 drove home the point.) He apprenticed as a Blacksmith and at age 13 he was the bread winner supported his mother and siblings. He then ran away to sea working the summers on the Great Lakes and winters on the ocean.


    On one of he ocean trips he found himself in London England were he saw an interesting thing. The English were actively engaged in ripping off the Egyptians. There was an Obelisk between the paws of the Sphinx. I do not know if any pictures exist of it in situ but when Napoleon was in Egypt (and blowing the nose off the sphinx with a cannon [you thought the English were bad] ) they made a number of drawings that show this Obelisk in place.


    The British decide the best place to care for this particular antiquity was the Royal Museum. The problem was how to get it there. A little gang of Royal Engineers decided to build a cylindrical barge around the monument and tow it back to England, which they did. Young Alexander McDougall saw this in operation and spoke with the crew about there unique tow vessel. They stated that it towed reasonably well and was immune from the effects of wind and waves.


    When McDougall returned to the Great Lakes he built one of his first vessel the Hiawatha a fishing vessel of conventional designe, and began towing a variety of cylindrical models with the characteristic spoon bill bow and "pigs nose" to improve the towing characteristics.


    He then built his first vessel with this design, Whaleback barge 101, when it hit the water his wife was herd to remark "There goes our last dollar." (As you can see the relationship between wife’s and rebreathers is kind of like wives and shipbuilders builders). It was however an effective design and he went on to build about fifty vessels most of which were barges but he also built some with triple expansion steam engines. One the Christopher Columbus was built as a passenger vessel and worked a run from Milwaukee to Chicago during the worlds fair and was said to have carried more passengers over the years than any other Great Lakes vessels.


    Things changed and the Whaleback design fell out of popularity. At the time of construction ships were loaded by man power, men wheel barrows etc., with the steam age machinery cranes etc., were used for this job. This was a problem for the Whalebacks. They had small hatches and the hatch combing would get banged up during loading and loose water tight integrity requiring repair before operation. There is a surviving Whaleback in Superior Wisconsin, the Meteor. This vessel was converted and served as an oil tanker for many years negating this problem.


    Like a Great many innovators McDougall had a tendency to "reinvent the wheel" this may not have been a good thing for the 115. One of McDougall’s invention was his own design for an anchor and his boats were equipped with his anchors, which frankly were known not to hold very well. If a conventional anchor had of been used the boat may not have ended up on the rocks.


    The crew of the 115 did not have much luck but do have one of those epic, Great lakes survival stories. The 115 was carrying a cargo of iron oar. They were in tow being another Whaleback the Colgate, in heavy seas and a snow storm. Just before the tow line parted 115 was observed to be pumping red water. She was pumping out her bilge and the colour was due to her cargo. On the tow vessel they thought this was a sign of the vessel in distress and that she was taking on water. The two vessels were lost to each other in the storm and the tow vessel searched for a time but had to abandon the search due to low coal levels, they had to have enough coal to make it to port and assumed 115 had gone down.


    115 drifted for days and grounded on Pic Island, inhabited by a small heard of caribou and the wolves that eat them. It is extremely rugged. After thanking God for there survival making it to land, they then had a little December hiking to do. After a couple of days they found that they were on an Island. They also came across an old trappers cabin. They took the cabin apart and recovered four nails. With the logs and the four nails they then built a raft to cross Thompson channel (a couple of miles). Problem with this plan is when they loaded the crew on the raft it sank to a point were the water was knee deep, and that is how they crossed the channel.


    They built a fire to dry out and again gave thanks for their salvation, only to find that they were in an extremely remote location. Eventually they came across a rail line walked it for a half day before being found and saved, a black cook being the worst for ware with frost bight.


    Tough way to make a living.


    Ships of steel, men of iron.

    This was a short teaser film, if anybody want to do up a documentary, or work as part of a collective to tell the Whaleback story I am available.
    Last edited by s. McWilliam; 24th January 2014 at 12:55.

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