Thursday, October 13, 2005



The Canada Steaship Line's Canaller "Kamloops" was built in 1924, in by the Furness Shipyards in Middlesbro, England. She was 250 feet long, weighed 2,400 tons, and had a crew of about 20 people.

She was based in Montreal, and sailed regularly between there and Fort William, across Lake Superior, and the island of Isle Royale.

After only 3 years of such service, she was on such a run in December, 1927 that the Kamloops met her end. The Kamloops (as with several other vessles) became embroiled in one of the worst winter storms Lake Superior had yet seen. So massive and powerful was the storm, that the exact time of her loss could not be determined. In fact, no one could even know if she was sunk for weeks after her actual loss. That loss, it was later learned, occurred on the night of December 6-7, at Isle Royale.

There are many theories reguarding the loss of the Kamloops. All of them valid, none of them provable. One theory suggests that ice formed rapidly on the cargo stored on her upper decks. The ice from crashing waves was so much and quick, that the hapless Kamloops capsized and sank.

Another theory is that a crashing wave knocked her external cargo loose, sent it sliding across her upper deck, where it knocked out her funnel and air vents. Without power, the ship ran aground on the island's jagged cliffs and slid down its steep underwater slopes.

My own personal theory is that a harsh wave crashed across her FORWARD superstructure, smashing her main bridge/pilothouse. This would support the roof of the pilothouse that washed seperately ashore on the island after the sinking. Without command, the ship drove into the island. It is possible in the storm, that crewmembers in the aft superstructure were even unaware of the pilothouse's destruction, as the ship ran aground.

Despite denials by less-than-motivated Canada Steamship Lines officials in the weeks after the sinking, it is clear that at least some of the crew survived the initial sinking. One of the lifeboats was ashore, it seemed to have been used. The bodies of several crewmembers were discovered at various locations on the island. One had even built a crude shelter. Finally, the body of one of the stewardesses was found, having written a note to her family AFTER the sinking.

Reguardless, the crewmembers who did not perish in the sinking succumed to the elements long before they could be rescued. Even their remains were not reached until summer of the next year!


My fascination with the Kamloops began at an early age in the late 1980s, when I saw a PBS television program about shipwrecks narrated by Scott Glenn. In this chapter, they discussed the various ways shipwrecks are being delt with in their legacy.

I never forgot the 2 or 3 minutes they devoted to the Kamloops. When I began building radio-controlled boats, her name came up again.

I had continued to research the ship via internet. I scraped together a few pictures and I began building my 4-foot Kamloops. She was completed on July 4, 2003. As with all my boats, she is made of corrugated cardboard, covered with fiberglass. She is a waterline model.

Originally, because I didn't understand how to hook up radios and stuff (I had a major phobia of electronics), I actually (are you ready for this?) bought an assembled R/C boat pool toy and GRAFTED it to her flatbottom hull! I sealed it with epoxy and drove the toy boat with a 4-foot model on its back!

This worked okay, actually. However, when I got the video (Ghost ships of Isle Royale), I learned of the many detail errors I had made, so I decommissioned her to rebuild her superstructure. I got distracted by alot of things, and didn't finish the revisions for a whole YEAR. When I did, I discovered that the toy boat no longer worked! Cheap crap.

Rather than throw the boat away, I gladly ripped out the toy boat, and put in a radio-shack motor, powered by 4 AA batteries. I added a rudder of my own. You can see the mechanics of her in the pictures above.

Today, the Kamloops is a boat I am proud to call my own. She is better than ever and will end up living longer than her namesake!

Well, that shouldn't be too difficult.


At 5:52 PM, Blogger PokerGirl said...

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At 7:32 PM, Blogger John said...

I am a city councillor in Kamloops and I have stumbled across the story of our namesake ship. I would be interested in any information you would have to share.

You can contact me at jofee@kamloops.ca

Yours truly,

John O'Fee


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