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Ships Page 5d Great Canadian Ships
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Ships in Canada - the Age of Sail and Steam - 1750 - 2010 - Ships 12

1 3 5 7 9 11 13 15 17 19
2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20
flashing newGreat Canadian Heritage Treasure

A fabulous wooden relic from one of Canada's oldest ships.

Left from the last days of French rule in Canada, a hunk of the oak planking from the King's 74 gun, ship of the line, L'Orignal - moose to you - launched at Quebec at Cape Diamond in October, 1750.

The 74 gun ship of the line was a French invention and was a state of the art war ship till the Napoleonic Wars of 1796-1815.

Unfortunately L'Orignal broke her back during the launching and sank in the channel.

Her timbers were salvaged in 1879 and made into walking sticks, etc.

The wife of the Governor-General, Princess Louise - you know, the one named after Lake Louise - had an entire room in her English home, paneled from the wood.

Go Louise & Her Lover

Ships have been a major source for road kill souvenirs for those who don't like littering their living rooms with animal matter of different kinds...

Go to the Powerful

Relic, L'orignal - 1750

Orig. wood relics - Size - 5 x 13 cm
Found - Toronto, ON













Above and left the Invincible, a 74 gun ship, built in 1740, in England for the French, looks exactly like L'Orignal would have appeared had she not sunk.

Below the ledge under the glowering cliffs of Cape Diamond, along the shore left was where much shipbuilding took place during the 18th and 19th century. A celebrated litho after James Cockburn from the 1820s. It is in the bay below where l'Orignal sank and where her timber lay till salvaged in 1879.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

Royal William at Quebec

On the right, protecting the town below, are the fabled Heights of Quebec, overlooking the St. Lawrence River.

Here at Wolfe's Cove, the British General after whom it was named, landed his men, at night, to climb the heights and come in the city's back door, to fool an unsuspecting foe.

The Battle of the Plains of Abraham was fought on the flats on top and the French Regime of 150 years came to an end.

Immediately, the British started to build ships at the Cove, left, including the Royal William, which in 1833, became the first ship to cross the Atlantic by steam alone. (JD has the date wrong on this.)

In subsequent years the Cove became a gigantic assembly basin where huge log rafts would gather from the interior, be taken apart, and the logs stuffed into the bow ports of sailing ships to be taken to England.

This is JD Kelly's own working copy on his artist's proof which he annotated in his own hand.

Building the Royal William at Wolfe's Cove Quebec 1784 (should be 1831) - JD Kelly
Orig. personal Artist's Proof - Size - 36 x 44 cms
Found - Brampton, ON
Signed in JD Kelly's hand, Prov - JD Kelly friend collection

Simply Fabulous! JD betrays his love affair with Canadian history in his hand-written title to this fabulous personal artist's proof. And he clearly wants Canadians to share his enthusiasm.

He has elegantly - but accurately - captured probably the most storied industrial site in Canadian history. But this is not just a simple boat building scene; it displays a history of boating on the St. Lawrence: in the background, the sailing ships that for over 200 years called at Quebec, and would for another century.

The Royal William may herald the coming age of steam with engines of iron, but keeps the wooden hull of a sailing ship. Iron ships were still a lifetime away.

In the middle distance, are two sluggish, broad, and shallow-draught bateaux, which take cargo and passengers from the bigger ships inland through locks and smaller rivers.

A very nice touch is the construction of the birch bark canoe which, for millennia, was the only boat on the St. Lawrence.

And, as in so many of his prints, JD features Indians; he saw them as playing important and supporting roles in Canadian history. In all his pictures he portrays them as knowledgeable and full of the same nobility with which he imbued the European Canadians he painted.

Long before it became politically correct, JD Kelly featured multiculturalism in his works. That was the way he had always seen Canadian history.

Below the Royal William in 1834.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

An absolutely fabulous discovery, is JD Kelly's personal Artists's Proof lithograph of one of his most famous works, and titled in his own hand.

Artist's Proofs are traditionally about 10% of a print run, that are signed by the artist, and often labeled AP for Artist's Proof.

But this is not one of the "production run" APs, but the personal working print which JD himself examined and agonized over interminably, seeking out every flaw in colour and contrast that needed correction. It is JDs primary tool which he used for ensuring quality control of the "Hector print" before giving his approval to start the presses for the common run of Artist's Proofs. He kept this print in his files as a personal memento of his work, and as a reference check for future print runs.

To remind himself, and the publisher, he has written the title in his own hand, in the margin, so it can be typeset by the printer and then combined with the picture into a printing master to run copies for public release.

Go to JD Kelly
The Landing of the Hector, Pictou, N.S., 1773 - JD Kelly
Orig. Personal Artist's Proof - Size - 36 x 44 cms
Found - Aberfoyle, ON
Titled & Original painted colour bars in JD Kelly's own hand, Original printer registration marks, Prov - JD Kelly friend collection.








At the bottom, JD painted his primary colour blocks directly on this personal copy so that correct colour separations could be made to faithfully reflect his palette. In the margins are the registration marks used to line up the paper with the plate.

The colours, in this first generation print, are, of course, superior to the later copies, run from dupe printing masters.

JD Kelly was no slouch. He filled his canvases with action and characters that were acting out commonly recognized behaviours.

An especially fine touch is the dog, unused to so much noise from so many people, seemingly cowering in fear, as his master, glad of the new company, greets the newcomers.

Or is it that, after eleven weeks at sea, without a bath, the arriving Scot seems to be harbouring some peculiar smells that the dog wants to investigate, while he is momentarily distracted by his master.

Capturing humour, or subtleties of human and animal behaviour that makes us all smile, knowingly, was not something Group of Seven artists cared to explore or record in any of their paintings. They were serious guys...

The Hector Scots: On Sept. 15, 1773, about 200 Scots landed at Pictou, Nova Scotia (New Scotland), to begin a wave of Scottish immigration that would go on for decades.

After a terrifying voyage, during which 18 babies died, they landed on the north shore of Nova Scotia, and splashed ashore.

JD Kelly has painted this dramatic moment, featuring the stowaway piper, who kept spirits up during the long voyage. Behind him, people of all ages struggle ashore with flags, family bibles, and luggage, as a couple of solitary Scots, who are already there, come down to greet them.

A replica of the Dutch ship Hector, which brought them here, was built in the 1990s and is based at Pictou as a tourist attraction.

flashing newGreat Canadian Heritage Treasure

A relic from US Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry's ship the brig Niagara, which he commanded during the Battle of Put-in Bay, on Lake Erie in 1813.

His nine ship fleet defeated the British six ship squadron, giving America control over the lower Great Lakes during the last part of the War of 1812.

The British and Canadians had to use land routes, away from the shore, to move about Upper Canada to avoid becoming road kill.

The Americans were able to make a land attack on the capital of York (Toronto) burn ships being built there, many houses, and Ontario's first Parliament Buildings.

This vulnerability to attack, by the warlike Americans, convinced the British to move the colonial capital of Canada from York to Bytown (Ottawa) further inland.

The Niagara was scuttled in 1820, but raised in 1913, and restored. This chunk of oak is from that period, when souvenir bits of her original planking were sold off to buy newer timbers for the refit.

Niagara still sails the Great Lakes to this day, a witness to 200 years of peace since her guns last spoke in anger.

This relic is the perfect alternative for those who don't get pleasure from sitting in their living room and fondling a bone - or a scalp - to feed their road kill habit...

Go to Great Canadian Roadkill

Relic, US Brig Niagara, 1813

Orig. planking - Size - 8 x 16 cm
Found - Toronto, ON

flashing newGreat Canadian Heritage Treasure This fabulous image by Joseph Heard reminds us that If there is any country that can rival a marine heritage to that of Great Britain, it is Canada.

Everything Canada had in non-Aboriginal people and culture, for 350 years, had to come by sea. She has the longest coastline, and probably the biggest reservoir of fresh water, in the world.

For 150 years, after the British Conquest of Canada, her people and supplies that supported the colony, came in ships like this, braving the wild Atlantic gales.

This hull is Canada-bound; there are icebergs in the background.

It is flying the Red Ensign, constantly confused by archivists and auctioneers as the Canadian Red Ensign, when in fact, it was the flag of the British merchant ships.

Heard has wonderfully captured the storms that gave all immigrants to Canada their main experience, cowering with fear in the bowels of the ship and throwing up over everything.

Many immigrant ships never made it, taking thousands of hopeful immigrants to a horrific death.

Canadian Ship in Arctic Waters - Joseph Heard c 1845
Orig. oil - Image Size - 23 cm
Found - Toronto, ON
flashing newGreat Canadian Heritage Treasure

An Arctic Scenery platter from c 1845 shows that arctic expeditions were popular to make spectacular dinner ware services.

This platter is a huge and shows about what it must have looked like when Franklin and his men were wintered in in the Central Arctic, before starting on their trek out.

Franklin's expedition of 1845 sought to find a way through the arctic to find a northern route to the Pacific Ocean.

Covering the ships over, as the men hunkered inside, was a common practice in arctic expeditions. With summer the ice would melt and the ships could sail away.

But the ice did not melt around Franklin's ships, which were crushed instead and sank leaving some 130 men to walk out.

They never made it; all perished in Canada's premier arctic tragedy.


Go to Platter Power
Platter, Arctic Scenery - 1846
Orig. platter - Size - 30 x 40 cm
Found - Napanee, ON
flashing newGreat Canadian Heritage Treasure

Canada's Greatest Arctic Disaster: In 1845 British explorer Sir John Franklin, in two ships, the Erebus and the Terror, and some 130 men, set out to find a way through the ice-bound channels around the north end of the Canadian arctic.

They never returned, and within a couple of years, search parties set out by land and sea to try to reach the spot in the arctic where they might possibly be. But all that was ever found were relics and bones - the most famous human road kill in Canada.

It turned out that the ships had frozen in and the men abandoned them and tried to walk out, south to Hudson's Bay posts. None of them made it. Relics were gathered from Inuit people who salvaged what the men abandoned, or dropped, as they died of starvation.

During a seal hunting expedition, historian John Goldi trekked along the southern shore of King William Island, following the trail by snowmobile during April, the same month the men died along the shore, when the land was snow-free, but the ice was still thick on the sea.

He found several cairns containing bones, set up in the 1930s by Hudson's Bay Manager Paddy Gibson FRC. The jaw bone, left, probably from a cabin boy who was on the expedition, was found by itself, along the shore by an Inuit hunter who was accompanying John Goldi. "Kabloonak! Not Eskimo" he said.

There are no teeth, indicating scurvy had ravaged through the gums of the dying men as they stumbled on to their deaths.

Sir John Franklin's Jawbone, 1847
Lower jaw - Size - 10 cm d
Found - Peffer Point, King William Is, NU
flashing newGreat Canadian Heritage Treasure

The most famous sailing ship to ever visit Canada was undoubtedly the Great Eastern in 1866.

This fabulous lithograph predates that event and celebrated her being built in 1857. The print, in original frame and glass, once belonged to the Oland family beer moguls of Nova Scotia.



Go to the Great Eastern


Lithograph, The Great Eastern Steamship, 1857
Orig. print - Image Size - 45 x 68 cm, Frame Size - 74 x 97 cm
Found - Halifax, NS
Prov - Oland Estate
Supplement, Illustrated London News, Sep. 17, 1859, drawing by Edwin Weedon

Right only twenty years after the Franklin Expedition disappeared the Great Eastern is shown, in Heart's Content harbour, at the end of laying the first transatlantic cable for sending telegraph messages.

Today this town is still tiny and remote and the original rusted old cable ends still stick out of the water.

And Canadians too were enthralled with the pre-eminent mechanical marvel of the day.

And wanted a souvenir to put on the wall or mantel.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

This fine Sunderland plaque, dating from c 1863, was a prize possession of Elizabeth Collard, and among the hundreds of choice Canadian pottery pieces that were auctioned off in 2002, to many collectors who sought to own a piece once selected for her own collection, by the premier authority on Canada's 19th century chinaware and pottery.

The Great Eastern Steamship laid the first successful transatlantic telegraph cable from Ireland to Heart's Content, in Newfoundland, in 1866, allowing instant Morse Code signals to travel from Europe to North America.

This, says Arthur Clarke, was progress akin to the Apollo Moon Project, allowing a message that had formerly taken an iffy two weeks or so, by ship, to be sent from Europe to America, to go now, in only seconds...

When launched, in 1858, she was the first big ship built out of iron, the first to use screw propellers, and, being five times larger than any other vessel afloat at the time, remained the world's biggest ship (displacement) until the Lusitania was built in 1906.

She was the creation of engineering genius Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who ushered in the age of iron construction, for ships and bridges, and so much fired the English imagination down through the years, that he was voted #2 in a UK BBC poll to pick the Greatest Briton of All Time. (He even beat Princess Di, but was edged out by Sir Winston Churchill. Quite an achievement for a guy who had already been dead for 150 years...) By the time he died at 53, in 1859, Brunel had built three ships, 25 railway lines, and over 100 bridges.

This plaque celebrates a Great Man, a Great Ship, a Great Canadian Event, and a Great Canadian Historian and Chronicler of our Potted Past, Elizabeth Collard.

Go to Liz Collard
Lustre Plaque, The Great Eastern Steamship, c 1863
Orig. Sunderland ceramic plaque - Size -24 x 24 cm
Found - Toronto, ON
Prov - Estate of Elizabeth Collard
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure The most dramatic shipwreck picture we have ever seen is this fabulous, and widely published, litho by US print maker extraordinaire, Currier & Ives... and it's Canadian! Of an event that occurred only seven years after the Great Eastern visited Canada.

The sinking of the White Star Liner SS Atlantic, April 1, 1873, off the village of Prospect, Nova Scotia, is Canada's second worst marine disaster of all time with the loss of some 562 people.

It is, we believe, the only Canadian disaster - they produced many US ones - that Currier & Ives ever memorialized.

But they outdid themselves with this one, wonderfully blending in the true horror of how hundreds of people lost their lives: floundering in the heavy seas, falling off the rescue rope, vainly scrambling up the masts, massing on the sinking decks, as the pounding sea reduces one of the finest ships in the world at the time, to kindling in mere minutes.

With CNN immediacy - for the age - this very print is also wonderfully contemporary, actually hand coloured within only weeks of the disaster.

The Wreck of the Atlantic, Currier & Ives - 1873
Orig. hand painted lithograph - Image Size - 23 x 32 cm
Found - Toronto, ON
The George Harlan Estate Coll

The person who will forever be remembered as being most intimately involved with discovering the truth about the sinking of the Atlantic, and recovering countless artifacts for Canadian maritime museums, is Greg Kochkanoff.

He dove countless times on the Atlantic grave site and numerous other marine sites around Halifax.

He wrote the lavishly illustrated book on the Atlantic sinking.

SS Atlantic: The White Star Line's First Disaster at Sea, by Greg Cochkanoff

Sadly Greg passed on, just before his book was published. But we will always remember fondly, his enthusiastic and irrepressible personality.

Below the painting of the Atlantic that Greg had commissioned.

And below that a more accurate Currier and Ives print of the disaster. The ship heeled to the left, not right, as she sank.

Go to The Atlantic Wreck

flashing newGreat Canadian Heritage Treasure

A fabulous antique print with original frame and glass from the 1890s, was typical of the type of decorative paintings hung by Canadians to remind them of the trials and tribulations their families had faced, at one time or another, in making the Atlantic crossing to seek out a new life in Canada.

There are countless stories of magnificent efforts by local fishermen making heroic rescues by swimming with ropes or venturing out with small boats to get a lifeline aboard a foundering ship.

These magnificent prints are rare to find these days. This huge original print, in mint condition, that has been wonderfully preserved in a loving home, for well over a century.

Lifeboat to the Rescue - c 1890
Orig. chromolithograph - Image Size - 51 x 67 cm
Found - Bond Head, ON
flashing newGreat Canadian Heritage Treasure

A fabulous picture of a wreck site at Grand Manan, New Brunswick, painted by Canadian William Nicoll Cresswell.

The Atlantic coasts of Canada were littered with masts, spars, and wooden flotsam from ships that had come to grief during storms or because of bad navigation at night.

Wreck sites became emotional touchstones for artists trying to get across the power and supremacy of the seas.


Go to William Cresswell
Shipwreck at Amethyst Cove, Grand Manan, NB - William Nicoll Cresswell, 1881
Orig. watercolour - Size - 12" x 20"
Found - Toronto, ON
Signed, dated 1881
flashing newGreat Canadian Heritage Treasure

A fabulous Currier and Ives print of a common disaster that might befall anyone who boarded a sailing ship or steamer, on Canada's coastal or inland waters.

People below decks would build fires to cook, or had candles or lanterns for light. Sometimes, especially during storms when everything rolled about, they might fall over and flames or coals would ignite flammables.

Many ships on the oceans and on Canada's Great Lakes caught fire this way and went to the bottom. Passengers - who were usually sleeping below - burned up or drowned.

The City of Montreal, like the Atlantic were sailing ships which also carried steam engines, switching back and forth depending on the winds or the timetable for arrival.

Go to Currier & Ives


The Burning of the City of Montreal, Currier & Ives - 1887
Orig. hand painted lithograph - Image Size - 23 x 32 cm
Found - Toronto, ON
The George Harlan Estate Coll
flashing newGreat Canadian Heritage Treasure

A fabulous painting of Canada's - quite possibly, North America's - oldest port, St. John's in Newfoundland.

For fully 500 years European sailing ships, starting with the Portuguese, stopped here for shelter on this, the closest touch point in Canada for ships coming from Europe.

St. John's became one of the oldest settlements in North America, its economy heavily dominated by sailing ships and the men who manned them, until the 20th century.

Canadian painter Emily Louise Orr Elliott has wonderfully captured the mystique and the wonder of this entire heritage in what must be the most fabulous portrait of St. John's ever painted.

Sailboats dominate the front and the back of her painting, with Signal Hill - where the first radio message from North America was sent to Europe - looking down.

St John's Harbour Newfoundland - Emily Louise Orr Elliott c 1910
Orig. watercolour - Image Size - 43 x 59 cm
Found - Toronto, ON
flashing newGreat Canadian Heritage Treasure

A ship that knew St. John's very well was Canada's most famous ship, the Terra Nova, captured in this fabulous painting by British artist Roger Desoutter.

Terra Nova started life as a sealing and whaling vessel in the Labrador Sea from 1884-1894.

She was resold to serve as a support vessel in various British arctic expeditions.

Most famously, from 1909-1913 she served the British Terra Nova Expedition to find the South Pole by land.

She is shown at the high point in her career, having ferried Capt. Robert Falcon Scott to his base of operations in Antarctica, for his heroic, but failed, attempt to become the first man to reach the South Pole in 1911.

For the rest of her life she returned to work as a sealing vessel in Canadian waters, a coal lugger, and ultimately a supply vessel for Greenland outposts.

In 1943 she was holed by ice and sank off southern Greenland. British museums preserve her binnacle, and bell, which is rung twice daily on weekdays.

Go to More Fine Ships by Roger
Terra Nova in Antarctica 1911 - Robert Desoutter 1984
Orig. oil - Image Size - 61 x 91.5 cm
Found - London, ON

There was a Canadian, Dr. Charles Seymour Wright from Victoria, British Columbia, who was a member of Scott's advance party to make the victory run for the pole, but through chance he was left off the final group who made the fatal dash, and who all died.

He could be one of the figures shown unloading provisions from the Terra Nova before the fatal dash for the pole.

It was he who discovered the top of the tent which contained their frozen bodies beneath the snow.

He was knighted in 1946, and died in 1975, the last survivor of Scott's Polar Expedition.

Like all the civilian heroes of the age he returned and signed up to fight in World War I.

And like the civilian veterans who survived the carnage, he always refused to discuss his experiences.

To him and so many others war was a horrible human aberration, and he turned to a life on civvy street to find his salvation, not with a bundle of war stories or war medals which were awarded him.

His presentation gold watch, from the city of Toronto, his medals, and the skis he used, are being auctioned at Christie's in London.

They expect to get up to $500,000 for the memorabilia of this largely unsung Great Canadian Hero.

flashing newGreat Canadian Heritage Treasure

A magnificent oil on canvas painting of the SS Milwaukee in mid-Atlantic, executed, in 1902, by the eminent French marine painter Edouard Adam.

Sailing ships for years, had been using auxiliary steam engines, for use when the wind was still, or manoeuvring in port.

Gradually the spars and yards to hold the sails were dispensed with, leaving only the masts. Vessels powered only by steam took over major transportation duties at the end of the Victoria era.

So when Canada sent its first contingent ever to fight in an overseas war - the Boer War in 1899 - the troops were sent in steel hulled steamers like the SS (for steam ship) Milwaukee.

The men were aboard for a month on the voyage to Cape Town, South Africa.

Edouard Adam was one of France's premiere marine artists in the late 19th century. His paintings of ships flew in the face of the contemporary impressionist style, and was noted for meticulous and wonderful detail.

Go to Who Sailed on the Milwaukee
Go to Other Boer War Steamers
Elder-Dempster Liner SS Milwaukee - Edouard Adam 1902
Orig. oil on canvas - Image size - 61 x 92 cm
Found - Toronto, ON
Signed Edouard Adam 1902, (1847-1929)
flashing newGreat Canadian Heritage Treasure

Canada has the longest coastline of any country in the world. It has many scattered villages sprinkled in isolated areas that have no road connection to the outside world.

Coastal liners, smaller cousins to their seagoing relatives were used to ferry people and goods to these remote locations.

Coastal liners were often prohibited from sailing further than 50 miles offshore.

In 1901 Canadian Pacific started a coastal liner service on Canada's west coast, that connected Seattle, Washington, and Vancouver, with a string of communities all the way up to Juneau and Skagway, Alaska.

This long route was almost entirely along a protected inland route known as the inland passage.


Go to the Mystery Ship
Anonymous Ship, c 1920
Orig. pastel - Image Size - 34 x 54 cm
Found - Port Hope, ON

Postcard - Empress of Ireland - c 1907
Orig. pc - Image Size - 9 x 14 cm
Found - Winnipeg, MB

Canada's worst marine disaster occurred on May 29, 1914 in the Gulf of St. Lawrence east of Quebec near Rimouski.

The Empress of Ireland was holed after colliding with the Norwegian collier SS Storstad in the fog.

She went down in 15 minutes, taking 1,073 lives.

Postcards like this became treasured items as former passengers considered themselves lucky to have survived the crossing and lived.

As Dollie Jones wrote her parents after a train trip to board the Empress, at Liverpool.

"We arrived here quite safe and sound" and then it's off once more, probably to Canada. "We do not sail till 5:00 tonight."

The date of this card is problematic. Dollie purchased it aboard ship so it dates from sometime after 1905, when the Empress was built till 1914, when she sank.

The date is very garbled but the stamp is King George V who was crowned in 1911.

The stamp though, is the "Downey head," from a photo by W&D Downey, and was not issued till 1912. So it has to be 1913 or 1914.

Dollie Jones probably sent it in January 1913, the year before the ship sank.

Many recreational divers have taken artifacts from the wreck including human remains as well as its bell.

Many divers have since died while exploring the mass grave site and trying to find stuff to steal.

In 1998 Canada passed legislation preventing people from penetrating and taking things from shipwrecks in Canadian waters.

But hundreds of Empress plates, windows, bottles, etc. have been sold on ebay.

flashing newGreat Canadian Heritage Treasure

Canadian Pacific's SS Princess Sophia was among many vessels plying British Columbia's inland waterways, being a vital lifeline for isolated communities to the outside world. Like any ship with a schedule to keep she sailed in a variety of unsettling conditions.

Predictably, like in the age of sail, there were steamship disasters with large losses of life.

The worst marine disaster on North America's west coast involved the SS Princess Sophia, which left Skagway, Alaska at night during a snowstorm, got off course and got stuck on a reef some 50 miles down the Lynn Channel.

At 2 am, on Thursday, Oct. 24, 1918, she got stranded with some 350 passengers atop Vanderbilt Reef.

She was soon surrounded by rescue vessels and photographers who would produce the most celebrated set of shipping disaster photos in Canadian history.

Canadian Pacific Line Princess Sophia - c 1913
Orig. photo - Image Size - 23 cm
Found - Seattle, WA
Some 350 passengers are in a panic as the ship rocks back and forth, her iron plates grinding loudly on the rocks.

But the wind and waves are too wild to permit rescue vessels to approach.

Here an attempt is being made to lower a lifeboat, which was soon aborted.

Everyone decided to wait for the low tide and for the storm to abate.

But it does not; wind and waves increase. Rescue ships head for shelter.

Night falls; the grinding noise gets louder.

An unbelievable night of terror for the passengers follows. No one can sleep.

Passengers start writing their wills.

At dawn rescue efforts start again, and are called off as the weather worsens and rescue ships head for shelter.

Late on Friday afternoon the last panicky message is received from Princess Sophia.

A frantic rescue ship heads out to see what all the panic was about and to see if it can render assistance.

But in the stormy dark and gloom it cannot locate the Sophia...

A long night of terror for the rescuers follows...

In the morning, after the storm abates, all that the rescuers find is the topmast of Princess Sophia.

The triangular buoy in the earlier photo show where the ship once stood out tall above the reef.

358 men, women, and children had perished in the cold and freezing water. Many others were trapped inside the hull as the Sophia broke up.

Watches that were later recovered all stopped at 5:50 pm, shortly after the last message was sent.

For months after bodies wash up on beaches up and down the channel.

The series of postcards become treasured mementoes.

The rescuers had made a gamble that it was too dangerous to try to take people off, that there were signs the weather was improving.

They were wrong...

But... in 1904 the captain of the steamer Clallam, which was on the verge of sinking in wild weather on the run from Seattle to Victoria, put all the women and children into three lifeboats. All the boats capsized, drowning all on board - at least 56. The Clallam stayed afloat till rescuers arrived to save all who had stayed aboard - all men. Probably the Sophia's captain was factoring the Clallam disaster into his decision to not abandon ship prematurely...

flashing newGreat Canadian Heritage Treasure
Historic Site - Princess Sophia Graves - Mountain View Cemetery
Orig. photo -
Found - Vancouver, BC
flashing newGreat Canadian Heritage Treasure
Historic Site - Princess Sophia Graves - Mountain View Cemetery
Orig. photo -
Found - Vancouver, BC
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
The passengers and crew on Sophia realized their extreme danger. Many wrote letters to loved ones. At least two of these were later recovered. The letter of John R. "Jack" Maskell, found on his body, was widely printed in newspapers at the time:

Shipwrecked off coast of Alaska
S.S. Princess Sophia
October 24, 1918
My own dear sweetheart,
I am writing this my dear girl while the boat is in grave danger. We struck a rock last night which threw many from their berths, women rushed out in their night attire, some were crying, some too weak to move, but the lifeboats were swung out in all readiness but owing to the storm would be madness to launch until there was no hope for the ship. Surrounding ships were notified by wireless and in three hours the first steamer came, but cannot get near owing to the storm raging and the reef which we are on. There are now seven ships near. When the tide went down, two-thirds of the boat was high and dry. We are expecting the lights to go out at any minute, also the fires. The boat might go to pieces, for the force of the waves are terrible, making awful noises on the side of the boat, which has quite a list to port. No one is allowed to sleep, but believe me dear Dorrie it might have been much worse. Just hear there is a big steamer coming. We struck the reef in a terrible snowstorm. There is a big buoy near marking the danger but the captain was to port instead [of] to starboard of [the] buoy. I made my will this morning, leaving everything to you, my own true love and I want you to give £100 to my dear Mother, £100 to my dear Dad, £100 to dear wee Jack, and the balance of my estate (about £300) to you, Dorrie dear. The Eagle Lodge will take care of my remains.
In danger at Sea.
Princess Sophia
24th October 1918
To whom it may concern:
Should anything happen [to] me notify, notify Eagle Lodge, Dawson. My insurance, finances, and property, I leave to my wife (who was to be) Miss Dorothy Burgess, 37 Smart St., Longsight, Manchester, England.
J. Maskell

Below right the door to 37 Smart St,. the tiny row house of tears, where Dorothy received the bad news...

Historic Site - Princess Sophia Graves - Mountain View Cemetery
Orig. photo -
Found - Vancouver, BC

flashing newGreat Canadian Heritage Treasure

A fabulous gouache of Canada's most famous sailing ship the Bluenose.

Long after steam and oil turbine driven ships took over most of the transportation duties to keep Canada's lifeline to Europe open, the Age of Sail continued among the fishermen and local traders along the Atlantic coast.

The Bluenose was a fishing schooner that repeatedly raced against the best American sailing ships and beat them in the 1930s winning international fame, if not fortune, for Canadian sail and sailors both.

No mere copy work from a photo, this fabulous portrait was painted from life in Halifax in 1934 by Canadian painter Rowley Murphy.

We know of no finer portrait of this ship, which celebrated the skill and talent of over 400 years of Canadian seamanship.

The Bluenose, Rowley Murphy 1934
Orig. gouache - Image Size - 22 x 29 cm
Found - Toronto, ON
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

A fabulous fan memento from another Canadian ship that came to a bad end, but this time on Canada's inland seas: the Noronic called the Queen of the Lakes.

Because Canada has the biggest surface area of fresh water of any country in the world, she had an inland steamer fleet to match.

The SS Noronic was launched in 1913, in Port Arthur, Ontario - today part of Thunder Bay at the far end of Lake Superior.

While on a cruise of Lake Ontario, with 700 aboard, she docked in Toronto harbour.

At 2:30 a:m on Sep. 16, 1949, fire broke out, probably from a cigarette dropped in a linen closet by a careless crew member. It soon engulfed the whole ship. Some 130 people burned or were suffocated to death.

The crew was widely blamed for cowardice and incompetence. None died; all escaped from the ship early on.

Of the five decks only one had an external exit. The fire hoses did not work - a disaster waiting to happen.

It ended the era of steamship travel on the Great Lakes as Canada Steamship Lines removed its passenger fleet from service the following year.

Fan, SS Noronic - c 1933
Orig. fan - Image Size - 38 cm
Found - Liverpool, UK
flashing newGreat Canadian Heritage Treasure A coastal ferry plows through the same fabulous Inside Passage once plied by SS Princess Sophia.

If you thought disasters could no longer happen to modern vessels you would be wrong.

You are looking over the bows of the Queen of the North on one of her last voyages through these waters.

At night, close to 1 a:m, on March 22, 2006, with 101 people aboard, as the huge ship was throbbing through these waters, so were the only two people in charge of guiding the ship.

The watch officer Karl Lilgert and Quartermaster Karen Bricker, who had reportedly, only recently ended a stint as lovers - both fooling around on their regular partners - for some reason decided to keep the ship on automatic pilot, turn off some alarm systems, dim the lights, and take some time off to reminisce or renew acquaintance, whatever.

For the next fourteen minutes, while they were otherwise occupied on the bridge, the ship ran on to an island at 17.5 knots..

Apparently the first words out of Mr. Lilgert's mouth were "Did you feel the earth move?" No one knows what came out of Ms. Bricker's mouth. The ship sank taking two people to the bottom.

Hiss Boo to the BC Ferry Service staff training department, who seems to instruct its people that when a ship is on autopilot you can take time off... you know, for whatever...

The Final Voyage - The Queen of the North on the Inside Passage
Orig. photo -
Found - Inside Passage, BC

Greeks have the face that launched a thousand ships...

Canadians only have the face that sank a ship...

Below Karen Bricker who apparently distracted the watch officer so much that he was too incapacitated to guide the ship safely.









No matter; in 2010 Karl Lilgert was charged with criminal negligence causing death.

Though he doesn't look worried; he pled not guilty... She made me do it...










The photo of the couple in a fond embrace is an unfortunate Toronto Star juxtaposition in an article that seeks to find out what could possibly have distracted the two former lovers while they were left totally alone in charge of guiding the ship.

The Toronto Star assures us this photo was not taken in the bridge of the Queen of the North, nor are either of the individuals Karl Lilgert or Karen Bricker...

But the BC Ferry Service is now seriously investigating putting recorders on their ships so they can monitor what's going on when the lights go out and the boss isn't around...

The map right shows exactly the spot where the darling duo turned off the lights on the bridge and started their "personal conversation."

They should have made a course correction as the ship neared Gil Island in the background.

But, they were too busy with each other to think of the ship and the lives of 101 passengers.

The Queen of the North hit Gil Island at full speed and gored herself fatally.

Luckily Gil Island, not the daring duo, saved the lives of the people, its rocks holding the ship firmly in their grip just long enough for the people to wake up and escape.

Otherwise she would have, instantly, gone to the bottom taking all with her.

As it was, a couple, who were passengers, were never recovered from the wreck site.

Running a Slack Ship - BC Ferry Policy is strict. On all night passages, three properly certificated people must be on the bridge at all times - and no exceptions for bathroom breaks.

Karen Bricker was not certificated to be the number three. The number two was off somewhere, possibly sleeping or smoking something, so only one properly certified person - Karl Lilgert - was on the bridge of the Queen of the North that night, not the three that are mandatory.

This raises the serious issue of why the captain wasn't charged. He knew Bricker was not certified. He knew that Bricker and Lilgert had a sexual relationship. He knew the crew rotation and still allowed them to be alone on the secluded bridge while he went off to sleep. Is this good staff management when the lives of 101 people are involved, the ship is on a night passage through treacherous islands and reefs, and heading into an expected squall?

And illegal pot smoking, when no one is around, has been a serious issue aboard BC ferries, that no one has done anything about... Was this a factor in the sinking of the Queen of the North?

Would you ever dare step aboard, let alone go to sleep, on a fleet of ships run more slackly than TV's Love Boat?
















If only it could talk...

Just beside the bridge windows, shown a few months before the sinking, rests an inflatable lifeboat that overheard the "private conversation" or whatever happened inside that dark night as the great ship steamed full tilt towards the rocks dead ahead...

...and then no doubt the recriminatory and panicked voices of Karen and Karl as they scrambled aboard their own personal lifeboat, eager to save themselves, and letting the terrified passengers fend for themselves as the great ship keeled over and sank.

Ship of Fools

As a result of crew negligence, two helpless victims went down with the ship. As far as one can tell from reconstructed testimony.

There was no proper passenger manifest kept on the Queen of the North, so no one even knows exactly how many passengers were on the ship.

Which is why it took many days before they finally figured out that two people did not survive the sinking.

And the ship's log, where vital information about the hourly doings of the crew on the bridge are kept, and which captains, on sinking ships, for hundreds of years, always retrieved before abandoning ship, seems to have disappeared...

Wonder what happened to it?

What is the captain's answer to this growing list of professional oversights that can be laid at his door? He was first fired then rehired, if you can believe...

Does being a ship's captain mean anything anymore on Canadian ships?

Hey, he's still got a job as captain on the BC Ferry service and will be commanding another ship in the fleet...

Will you take your life in your hands, and climb on board, with him at the helm? We'd rather have Karen Bricker thank you. Being a woman she was probably harder working and more conscientious than the three men directing the Ship of Fools... and initally all fired by BC Ferries.

Above a fond memory, the last wake of the Queen of the North, now 400 metres down.

Copyright Goldi Productions Ltd. - 1996, 1999, 2005, 2010