Great Lakes Photo Archive Title Image

Wrecked far from home - Ithaka


This slide was a really rare ebay purchase a number of years ago and while I have no idea who the fella in the photo is the ship is definitely familiar. The original Kodachrome slide was taken during February of 1962, only 18 months after the vessel had stranded on the shallow rocks and subsequently abandoned. Original photographer unknown.


The following is a short story that was written by Leroy Whitmore and featured along with a video he made of the wreck back in September of 2014.

She was built as the lake freighter FRANK A. AUGSBURY for the George Hall Coal Company by Fraser, Brace, Ltd., of Trois-Rivières, Quebec and launched on 21 October 1922. FRANK A. AUGSBURY was 2,051 GRT and 251 ft 2 in (76.6 m) by 43 ft 1 in (13.1 m) with draft of 18 ft 1 in (5.5 m) powered by a 1,400 horsepower triple expansion steam engine fired by two Scotch marine boilers burning coal. She was sold to Canada Steamship Lines in 1927 and renamed GRANBY. She was taken over by the Ministry of War Transport and managed during the Second World War by France, Fenwick and Company.

On 28 June 1945 GRANBY collided with the British MV ATLANTIC CITY off the West Goodwins, and was holed aft above the waterline. GRANBY was taken to the Downs, and on 2 July was towed to Gravesend by the tugboats EMPIRE LARCH and EMPIRE MARY. On 3 August she left Gravesend under tow and was laid up in the River Blackwater. She was sold to the Panamanian firm Cia Naviera Parita S.A. in 1948 and renamed PARITA II, sailing for them until 1951, when she was acquired by the Italian shipping company Lloyd Mediterraneo S.p.A. di Nav., and renamed VALBRUNA. In 1952 she was bought by the successor company of her original owners, now trading as the Hall Corporation of Canada, Ltd., and returned to Canada under the name LAWRENCECLIFFE HALL. She was sold again in 1955, this time to the Federal Commerce & Navigation Co., Ltd, who renamed her FEDERAL EXPLORER.

Federal Commerce and Navigation used her as a supply ship to communities on the Canadian Arctic seaboard, twice chartering her to the Clarke Steamship Company in 1956, and using her to open the Federal Intercoastal Line in 1957.The FEDERAL EXPLORER, under her master, Captain Simon Bouchard, delivered parts for new nickel mill under construction in Rankin Inlet in 1956 and also delivered cargoes of fuel oil to Royal Canadian Air Force stations in the Arctic. In 1958 she carried nickel concentrates to Churchill, Manitoba for shipment by rail to Fort Saskatchewan, and then delivered a cargo of grain from Churchill to Montreal in late October.

FEDERAL EXPLORER was sold for the final time, to the Ithaka Shipping Company in 1960, and was registered in Nassau, Bahamas by her owner, a Greek named J. Glikis and renamed ITHAKA. She was charted to the Clarke Steamship Company to deliver nickel concentrate from the works at Rankin Inlet, and sailed from Churchill on 10 September 1960 to collect her cargo, carrying supplies for the settlement. She was caught in a severe gale while making the voyage, losing her rudder. She dropped anchor, but the anchors failed to hold, and she ran aground in Bird Cove, Sept 14th, 1960.

She had delivered her first shipment of 3,000 tons of ore to Churchill, and had loaded a small amount of mining equipment and building supplies, for a return trip, but she encountered a storm with 80 mile per hour winds. The captain turned back to the safety of the port. But the weather was so bad that he decided to drop anchor. The anchor chain broke and her rudder was beaten off. Completely out of control the vessel was driven into Bird Cove, 12 or 15 kilometres from Churchill, Manitoba, running onto a shallow gravel-bank 750 metres off shore.

Her bottom was completely ripped out when the storm pounded her on the gravel bank. The insurers, Lloyds of London, wrote off the vessel as a complete loss, but regarding the grounding as suspicious, refused to pay the insurance claim. All 37 crew members walked ashore at low tide and were later rescued by the Canadian Coast Guard's CCGS Sir WILLIAM ALEXANDER. They were landed at Winnipeg, Manitoba on 18 September. The shallow water she grounded in meant that people could walk to the wreck at low tide, and her navigating instruments and much of her cargo, consisting of two generators and some plywood panels, as well as mission supplies, were salvaged.

Credit for the above text to Leroy Whitmore.

This is a link to his drone video which is on YouTube.