Sunday 10 June 2012

The Canaller BIRCHTON

My father was the Third Mate on the bulk carrier BIRCHTON until 1947 and when he took the picture, above, he was simply hoping to get back up forward after lunch while Gulf of St. Lawrence breaking waves made that task quite the challenge.
BIRCHTON in winter layup in Toronto - year and photographer unknown.
The BIRCHTON, was built in 1924 in Dumbarton, Scotland for the Mathews Steamship Company which had a fleet of two other ships also named after trees found in Canada, the CEDARTON and OAKTON. They were sold to Gulf and Lake Navigation in 1938 and were kept busy in the grain, coal and pulpwood trade which is what my dad's BIRCHTON was carrying to the Bowaters Pulp and Paper Mill in Cornerbrook, Newfoundland, when he met my mother. They were married in 1948 and soon after moving to Port Colborne, my dad started working on the Welland Canal.

Upbound canaller KEYSHEY on Galop Canal near Cardinal 
The BIRCHTON and her sisters were part of a group of 180 other ships her size that were known as "canaller". Each were built to a maximum length of about 250 feet, 43 feet wide and drawing 15.5 feet so that they could traverse the various St. Lawrence River canals upbound towards Lake Ontario.

The Lachine, Soulanges, Cornwall, and Williamsburg Canals were built to avoid several treacherous rapids along the St. Lawrence such as the Long Sault Rapids that you can see in the background in the pic of my sister, Karin and the Cornwall Canal taken back during my parent's road trip probably in 1954's. Heading downbound, the canallers, with their shallow draft and flat bottoms would simply chute the rapids during the day. Chuting the dangerous rapids and passing   through the many small communities where the locks were location, all came to an end when these areas were flooded and lost forever when the St. Lawrence Seaway was opened in 1959.

No comments:

Post a Comment