Heritage Society commemorates 100 years since Tritonia’s
© Photo courtesy of the Botwood Heritage Society
During the summer of 1911, the Tritonia was dry docked in the United Kingdom and fitted with a bow designed for operation in ice. To try to extend the season to Botwood, the Tritonia left the U.K. bound for Botwood in January 1912 with a cargo of coal for the mill in the former town of Grand Falls. It passed Surgeon’s Cove, Exploits, 11 p.m. Jan. 31, and didn’t dock at the coal wharf in Botwood until 4 p.m. March 2.
One hundred years ago tomorrow, the Tritonia docked at the coal wharf in the Port of Botwood.
And on March 9, the Botwood Heritage Society plans to commemorate the anniversary.
The Tritonia's first attempt at ice breaking to the Port of Botwood was recorded in a diary of the late Thomas Arklie, who for many years was the port and railway superintendent at Botwood.
"It's the first attempt at ice breaking to the Port of Botwood and it was to extend the season," said Eric Edison, vice-president of the Botwood Heritage Society.
The Tritonia, who had a 36,000 tonne capacity for paper or ground wood, made more than 20 trips to Botwood that Edison said he is aware of through logbooks from 1910-1914.
The description of the Tritonia's attempt to break ice in Botwood in 1912 was donated by Bob Arklie of Grand Falls-Windsor, the son of Thomas Arklie. It was brought to Botwood Heritage Society by Bob Arklie's brother, Angus Arklie, who still resides in the town.
According to the description, arrangements were made with steamship owners the Donaldson Brothers of Glasgow, Scotland, to transport the production of newsprint and baled ground wood from the mill in the former town of Grand Falls through the Port of Botwood to markets in the United Kingdom (U.K.).
During the summer of 1911, the Tritonia was dry docked in the U.K. and fitted with a bow designed for operation in ice.
"In 1911, they decided that they are going to try to extend the season in Botwood harbour," Edison said. "The ice was a problem. So they took the Tritonia...put her on a dry dock, took the haul off her, put a new one in there, strengthened it and (made it) ready for the ice. But the problem is boats that size don't have the horsepower to push through the ice. They are only steam driven and very low horsepower."
According to the diary, the Tritonia left the U.K. bound for Botwood in January 1912 with a cargo of coal for the mill in the former town of Grand Falls. It passed Surgeon's Cove, Exploits, 11 p.m. Jan. 31, and didn't dock at the coal wharf in Botwood until 4 p.m. March 2, 1912.
A record of the ship's daily progress up the bay is recorded in Thomas Arklie's diary.
It states the Tritonia encountered ice by Cabbage Head Light, which is located on Thwart Island where a light helps guide boats through the Bay of Exploits. From there, "the ship's daily progress wires measured in yards rather than miles."
According to an extract from a 1912 diary in the Botwood office of Price-Newfoundland, "The final lap - from Mill Point to (the) coal wharf - about 700 yards, was accomplished by hand sawing and blasting a channel."
"They had to do whatever they could," Edison said.
The diary states the ship consumed all its coal plus the coal cargo during the trip up the ‘run.'
"When she got 700 yards from the wharf, she ran out of coal altogether and they had to bring it out (from Botwood) on horse and sled." Edison said. "The unfortunate part about it, three days before she got here they had the worst storm they had in three winters - 40 below and I'd say that made the ice a lot thicker."
Edison said though the Tritonia made it to Botwood, it had no coal for the return trip.
"Botwood kept her going in coal just so she wouldn't freeze up," Edison said.
Referencing a logbook from April 13, 1912, Edison said "the steamer Adventure sails for Sydney today - that's from St. John's - to load coal for Botwood to supply S.S. Tritonia, which was lying the past month with 3,500 tonnes of pulp aboard. She was waiting for coal to take her across the Atlantic."
The logbook states on April 30, the Tritonia "icebound in Botwood during the winter, sails today for England, the Adventure and Nascopie having opened the River yesterday."
To commemorate this long voyage 100 years ago, the Botwood Heritage Society is hoping to reenact her entrance into Botwood harbour.
This will occur on March 9, as long as the Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker is not called out on emergency duty, Edison said.
The decision to hold off a week was made because on March 9, the Mid-Winter Bivver and Rendevous 2012 are having a meet-and-greet in Botwood with the antique snowmobile display and fireworks, so the society figured it was a good time to hold the event.
"We want her to be in Botwood harbour 4 p.m.," Edison said. " And stop where she ran out of fuel, haul in (by) where the coal wharf used to be, blow the horn and let everybody know this is where she landed."