Lightkeeping on the St. Lawrence: The end of an era

Lightkeeping on the St. Lawrence: The end of an era
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For example, when this rate list was issued on August 28, , the Lachine and Beauharnois canals were under construction. The increased traffic represented a good business opportunity, and several companies jumped at it. The rates were of interest mainly to shipowners, since the document lists the premiums for schooners, Durham boats and steamers. The document was probably given to merchants as well, so that they could determine the.

The end of an era

The grain barges used in the late 19th century were built of wood and generally had no engine. They had to be towed to their destination. Most had a single small sail to make them easier to tow. The port of Montreal was the main terminal for grain barges sailing downriver from the Upper St. This is where their valuable cargo was transferred to larger vessels such as sailing ships or steamships destined for faraway markets. With the opening up of Western Canada to settlers in the late 19th century, grain became one of the principal commodities transported on the St.

Lawrence system. Ships make the same journey today, their holds bursting with grain. Grain barges were often owned by large transport companies such as the Canada Atlantic Railway. To transport Western grain to the terminals e. Francis to the west of Montreal for loading on barges, the company built railroads. David Ross McCord M The Rideau Canal, which was almost kilometres in length, was built so that Canada's inland waterways would be further away from the American threat.

Recall that during the War of the Americans invaded Canadian territory and compromised the safety of shipping on the St. Lawrence River along a north-south axis. From its northern end, next to the city of Ottawa formerly called Bytown , the canal runs south to Kingston, where it meets the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario. Considered at the time a marvel of Canadian maritime engineering, the canal is still open as a navigable route, making it the oldest canal of its type in continuous use in North America. Approximately men worked on the construction of the waterway. Many fell ill with malaria while living at the site, where conditions were extremely unsanitary.

It is estimated that one-quarter of the workforce, some men, died either of malaria or accidents while working on the canal.

The Richelieu and Ontario Navigation Company was founded in when two rival shipping firms joined forces: the Compagnie du Richelieu, which operated boats in the Quebec portion of the St. Lawrence, and the Canadian Steam Navigation Company, which operated further to the west. Lawrence from Saguenay and Tadoussac where the company built a hotel to Lake Ontario, and from there to Toronto. Travelling downriver the steamers "ran" the rapids, much to the thrill of their passengers. Right from its beginnings in , the Richelieu and Ontario Navigation Company was a very successful inland shipping company.

It took over several smaller competitors. Then, in , it was amalgamated by rivals during the formation of Canada Steamship Lines. The first president of the Richelieu and Ontario Navigation Company was Sir Hugh Allan, a rich industrialist who had also made a name for himself in the shipping business. Photographie, diapositive sur verre Porte aval du canal Cornwall, Ont. The Cornwall Canal, which is It enabled ships to bypass the rapids at Long Sault, which are among the most violent in the St. After its opening the canal had to be monitored because the jetty separating it from the turbulent waters of the river was not very watertight.

The canal is located in eastern Ontario and runs from Cornwall to a place called Dickinson's Landing named for the businessman who, early in the 19th century, ran boats and carriages between Montreal and Upper Canada. The construction of the Cornwall Canal was authorized by the legislature of Upper Canada in as an alternate to the Rideau Canal route. The work was however interrupted by the Rebellion and not completed until The canal was enlarged between and As surprising as it may sound, the mouth of the Cornwall Canal at Dickinson's Landing is today a veritable playground for divers.

When the St. Lawrence Seaway was built in the late s a large section of the shoreline upstream from Cornwall, including part of the old canal, was flooded with several metres of water. As its name suggests, The Island Wanderer was an excursion boat that operated in the Thousand Islands region. It had a draft of 58 tons net tonnage and measured The Island Wanderer was built at Alexandria Bay in The town, which was also the boat's home port, is on the American side of the St.

Lawrence River in the Thousand Islands.

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Editorial Reviews. Review. Lightkeeping on the St. Lawrence outlines the history of lightkeeping in the St. Lawrence River and Gulf from its emergence in Lightkeeping on the St. Lawrence outlines the history of lightkeeping in the St. Lawrence River and Gulf from its emergence in until automation replaced.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, river excursions were very popular, especially those that sailed the Thousand Islands region. The Island Wanderer was, in , owned by a certain E. Several years later he enlarged the boat and renamed it The Island Belle. Trinity House was an organization dedicated to ensuring the safety of ships and the well-being of their sailors.

Part of its mandate was to build and maintain lighthouses and navigation aids. The first Trinity House was founded in in Great Britain. The two groups handed over their responsibilities to the Department of Marine in the early s. Each Trinity House was headed by three directors. In addition to their administrative responsibilities, the directors held judicial powers and presided over criminal and civil cases such as those related to shipping violations and contractual disputes between sailors and shipowners.

The Department of Marine and Fisheries was responsible for a wide range of activities related to shipping and navigation in Canada as well as to the coastal and inland fisheries. Because it was a federal agency, Marine and Fisheries was managed from an office in Ottawa. The office was located in the West Block, one of two office buildings connected to Parliament. The Department of Marine and Fisheries was created at Confederation in and was put in charge of the lighthouses on the St. Lawrence River in Amalgamated with other federal departments, namely, the Civil Aviation Branch of the Department of National Defence, it was renamed the Department of Transport on November 2, At the end of the 19th century, the rules for hiring staff in this and all other government departments were quite different from what they are today.

In , except for ship inspectors, who had to pass tests to qualify, marine agents, lighthouse keepers, harbour police, ship's captains, and harbour officials were often awarded their jobs because of their political ties. Peinture Bicquette, Henry Richard S. It was completed in at an estimated cost of British pounds. Sailors greatly feared the area because numerous ships were wrecked there.

Ships' captains who sailed these waters had first called for the construction of a lighthouse here in The original lighthouse is still in operation, though it has been automated. There is a legend about a man named Fortier who spent the winter at the lighthouse after its two keepers drowned in One night, hearing strange footsteps in the staircase, Fortier became convinced that the lighthouse was haunted and refused to set foot in it again. The small wooden lighthouse that can be seen on the wharf of the port of Montreal is a harbour lighthouse.

The lamps in these lighthouses are usually not as strong as those in major coastal lighthouses. Small lighthouses such as this one are found in most Canadian harbours, large and small. In addition, these square or octagonal wooden towers are found at the entry to waterways like canals, or at the head of the municipal wharf in towns along the coast.

Lighthouses such as the one in this photograph date from the second half of the 19th century.


They had to be towed to their destination. It was a difficult life with scant reward, but the diligence of the keeper kept the country open to commerce in times of peace, and safe from enemy attack in times of war. From the earliest years of the St. Winds that change the landscape, even. Mario Cyr, a world-renowned cinematographer originally from the Islands, spoke passionately about all the things you can find in the archipelago. Tucked around a bay and protected by an archipelago full of seabirds, the city looks towards the sea from the Promenade du Vieux-Quai, a boardwalk along the water. Quoi: The Richelieu and Ontario Navigation Company was founded in when two rival shipping firms joined forces: the Compagnie du Richelieu, which operated boats in the Quebec portion of the St.

The port of Montreal was a bustling place at that time. Montreal's lighthouses were originally run by Trinity House, but came under federal government management after Confederation in The lighthouse at Pointe-des-Monts is a tall, circular tower made of stone and equipped with a copper polygonal lamp more than 3 metres in diameter. Originally, it was lit by 13 oil lamps, each equipped with a parabolic reflector, but that system was replaced by a more efficient lens at the end of the 19th century. The lighthouse at Pointe-des-Monts is located on the north shore of the St. The construction of the Pointe-des-Monts Lighthouse was completed in But the site had been chosen even earlier, in , when Trinity House in Quebec City started planning the lighthouse.

It was needed to prevent ships leaving the river at that point from going ashore near Anticosti Island, as many had done. The last lighthouse keepers here were Jacques and Marie-Berthe Landry. In , they led a campaign to prevent the demolition of the lighthouse, and the following year the province of Quebec purchased the lighthouse and made it a historical monument. The lighthouse at Baie St.

Paul is a secondary coastal light of the pepper-shaker type so familiar in the 19th century. Baie St. Paul is located on the north shore of the St. Lawrence, in the Charlevoix region of Quebec.

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The Gouffre River runs through the town. Lighthouses of the pepper-shaker type were built during the middle decades of the 19th century. Because they were made of wood, very few are still standing today. These small wooden lighthouses were often built by local companies for the government. The builders had to work exactly to the plan. The "lighthouse" at La Malbaie was a small lantern perched on the roof of the station at the end of the wharf.

Passengers getting on and off ships would shelter in the station building. La Malbaie is located on the north shore of the St. Lawrence in the Charlevoix region. However, the wharf shown in this photograph might be the one at Pointe-au-Pic, just to the west of La Malbaie.

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In the early 20th century, La Malbaie Murray Bay was a popular summer destination for the rich and famous. One regular summer visitor was William Howard Taft, the 27th president of the United States La Malbaie owes its name to Samuel de Champlain. Champlain found the bay "terrible" because its low tides temporarily grounded his ships. The Pointe-au-Beaudet Lighthouse, a small wooden tower topped by a lamp, was one of several lighthouses on Lake St. It kept ships from foundering on the rocky point and sandbars in the waters nearby.

Lake St. Francis is a widening in the St. In , a group of five Jesuit missionaries heading for Huronia to convert the Aboriginals to Christianity arrived at Lake St. The first lighthouse keeper was Alexander MacDonald, a farmer at Pointe-au-Beaudet at the time of his appointment in He later built a home beside the lighthouse. When visibility on the river was poor, the lightkeeper would load the canon with gun powder and fire it.

He did this every half hour until the weather cleared. In May , the Empress of Ireland sunk nearby, killing people. That device was itself replaced the following year by a diaphone, an even more powerful foghorn. Because the diaphone was a more complex piece of equipment, it was sometimes operated not by the lightkeeper but by a "fog alarm engineer.

Paul Jobin MP Lightships were mobile navigation markers used in places where building a permanent lighthouse was too difficult. However, both types of lighthouse served the same purpose: to indicate a channel or obstacle in the water. In Canada, lightships were used most often in inland waters such as in lakes St.

Louis and St. Lightship No. Louis, was built in Lightships were most prevalent in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Although some were still used well into the 20th century, now there is only one in use in Canada. Canadian lightships were built in shipyards in Canada and in Great Britian. Although some were manufactured especially of that purpose, most were old ships that had been fitted out as lighthouses. The oil lamps for the early lighthouses had woven circular sleeve-like wicks. Air was able to flow through the wick, improving the flame. Oil lamps were installed in all kinds of lighthouse lanterns the upper section.

They were set either in front of a parabolic mirror catoptric or behind a glass lens dioptric. The use of gas and oil lamps in lighthouses was gradually discontinued in Canada after the beginning of the 20th century. The conversion to electricity took place over a number of years, as regions were electrified.

The years between the First and Second World Wars saw rapid conversion to electricity. Modern oil lamps, whose wicks do not smoke allowing for more intense light , are known as Argand lamps, after Ami Argand, their Swiss inventor. Argand lamps have tall glass chimneys. The Matane Lighthouse is a cylindrical tower Like several of the lighthouses in the Gulf of St.

Lawrence that is often foggy. The lighthouse dates from Today it is used as a tourist information centre. During his term of office, several lighthouses were constructed or rebuilt on the St. Navigation buoys indicate channels in a waterway, that is, where ships can safely travel.

The earliest buoys were made of painted wood. Gas buoys were made of iron to prevent them from burning. Ships travelling to and from Lac St. Two separate crimes, two tragic outcomes. Jacques Rouleau has moved to Kingston to look after One hot week in late September, university student Leah Sampson View Product. The story of steamboating in the Canadian West comes to life in the voices of The story of steamboating in the Canadian West comes to life in the voices of those aboard the vessels of the waterways of the Prairies.

Their captains were seafaring skippers who had migrated inland. Their pilots were indigenous people who For 12 years Dale Goldhawk journeyed through the streets of Canada and into the hearts For 12 years Dale Goldhawk journeyed through the streets of Canada and into the hearts of thousands of Canadians.

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Still an active ait-to-navigation for Lake Ontario sailors, the Lighthouse is representative of the City of Oswego's rich maritime history, heritage, and culture. Designed by the Superintendent of Lighthouses, 10th District of Buffalo, NY in , the Lighthouse was placed at the end of the new west-arrowhead breakwater nearly one-half miles offshore into Lake Ontario which required special engineering to withstand the high winds, heavy surf, and destructive ice common to the Lake. The St. Lawrence Seaway, completed in , opened the Port of Oswego Authority to larger ocean-going freighters which further enhanced the need for continued and reliable aids-to-navigation.