Northcliffe Hall - Montreal, Canada


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The 1926-built bulk carrier Northcliffe Hall is seen in this photograph while she transiting downbound in the Welland Canal in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada. At the time this picture was taken she was about to depart the Welland Canal and enter Lake Ontario. Photo beleived to be by Alfred F. Sagon-King.


The shipping companies that operated Canada's inland shipping fleets began to rebuild after World War II. Many vessels that left them to assist in the war effort failed to return. The Hall Corporation was among the first to order new hulls and five steam canallers were ordered in 1947. Seven more small, diesel powered ships were added in the 1950s. The first of the latter group to be delivered was the Frankcliffe Hall.

The ship was designed by her builder, Canadian Vickers Ltd, Montreal to obtain the greatest carrying capacity through the old St. LAwrence Canals and still be able to handle limited salt water trading. Other improvements over her predacessors was a larger wheelhouse to accomodate the latest navigation equipment and more spacious crew quarters.

Frankcliffe Hall usually carried cargoes of iron ore pellets, granular coal, various types of grain, pulpwood and other general cargoes. She was renamed Northcliffe Hall in 1962 and operated until being retired at Kingston, Ontario in the fall of 1971. The vessel was sold to Bahamian Interests late in 1973 and renamed Northcliffe the following year. She left Kingston on December 15th, 1974 and after loading large rolls newsprint headed for Colombia. After only a limited service on the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico, this ship was laid up at Houston, Texas. The was purchased by Groupe Desgagnes of Quebec, Canada in 1976 and returned to the St. Lawrence River and eventually the Great Lakes as Roland Desgagnes.

Unfortunately, she had some problems following her return to the freshwater seas. They included a grounding in the Detroit River on May 25th, 1977, one on the St. Lawrence River on October 18th, 1980 and a third on the St. Clair River on November 2nd, 1981. There was also a minor collision with the Cuban freighter Carlos Manuel De Cespedes when the latter lost power on May 17th, 1980 west of the Eisenhower lock on the St. Lawrence Seaway.

The end of the 78.9 meter (259 foot long) Roland Desgagnes began when she hit the bottom off Pointe au Pic, Quebec at about 23:40 on May 26th, 1982. The ship was upbound at the time with salt from Pugwash, Nova Scotia for Montreal when she struck the rocky bottom. High tide, often a friend to grounded ships, proved to be an enemy this time. The rising tide succeeded in floating the ship free but she immediately began taking water at a rate that was beyond her pumps. The Ville Marie of the Canadian Coast Guard was diverted to the scene and assised in the rescue of the entire crew of 15 sailors. Roland Desgagnes later sank in 100 meters (330 feet) of water at about 04:00 on May 27th and she has never been salvaged.


Information courtesy The Scanner - Toronto Marine Historical Society
and Skip Gillham's book Seaway Era Shipwrecks

If you know more about this ship - trade routes, cargoes, accidents, layups, drydockings etc.etc.. please send me a Message.

Posted: November 25, 2002       Last Revised: November 25, 2002
Photo likely by Alfred F. Sagon-King (Jeff Cameron's collection) - Copyright © - 1960s, 2002

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