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Shipwreck: OUTARDE

Skip Gillham
Vineland, Ontario, Canada

While some ships spend their lifetime in relative obscurity, Outarde managed to make the news on a number of occasions. In time the ship was a total loss.

The vessel was one of a number of small freighters constructed for Great Lakes service in the United Kingdom during the 1920's. It was launched as Brulin at Hebburn-on-Tyne on July 31, 1924, and after loading 2,168 tons of coal, arrived at Toronto on September 29, 1924. The ship was owned by the Montreal Forwarding Company and used to shuttle bulk cargoes from Great Lakes to the St. Lawrence River ports. Brulin was ideal for the job as dimensions of 261 feet overall length by 43.1 feet at the beam made her a snug fit in the old locks of the St. Lawrence and Welland Canals.

Trouble started early with a grounding at the head of the Morrisburg Canal in August 1925. This was followed by a collision that sank the tug Emma L. and claimed two lives off Windmill Point on the St. Lawrence on July 15, 1926. Brulin was bound for Montreal with 80,000 bushels of wheat when she hit Seven Acre Shoal near Kingston on Lake Ontario on October 16, 1932. The vessel was holed beneath the engine room and 29,000 bushels of cargo had to be removed before the vessel could float free. Seventy-one hull plates had to be repaired in this adventure. On November 16, 1935, the crew of Brulin found the tanker barge Bruce Hudson adrift in Lake Ontario. The towing tug had left the vessel in the open lake and gone to port for more fuel. The owners of Brulin were awarded $9,999 in salvage fees.

In 1939 the vessel was sold to the Quebec and Ontario Transportation Company (Q. & O.) and it was renamed Outarde. The parent company of Q. & O. produced newspapers like the Chicago Tribune and they used the ship to bring pulpwood to their paper plant in Thorold, ON and newsprint to their dock in Chicago. Coal and grain were also handled from time to time.

In January 1943, while carrying news-print to St. John's, Newfoundland, the Outarde became stranded in the Gulf of St. Lawrence near the French islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon. When released the vessel then spent time carrying coal from Hampton Roads to Boston for the U.S. Maritime Commission and had a 12 lb cannon mounted on the afterhouse for protection.

Photo of Ship Outarde

Initial salvage operations March 1946
Photograph by Geoffrey Hawthorne,
courtesy of Daniel C. McCormick

Outarde was returned to Q. & O. in June 1943 and suffered a serious accident at Clayton, NY on November 30, 1945. A wild storm caught the ship at the Consul-Hall Coal Dock at Clayton, NY and repeatedly pounded the hull against the structure. An exposed piece of steel below the waterline eventually penetrated the hull and Outarde sank with a list.

The freighter was cofferdamed and the initial salvage in March 1946 lasted only a day before the Outarde sank again. Success was achieved on April 18, 1946, and, after repairs at Kingston, Outarde resumed service in June. By fall the vessel was in trouble again and spent two days aground in the St. Clair River off St. Clair, MI.

The opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway on April 25, 1959, sent many small lakers into retirement. Outarde was sold for scrap but was pressed back into service in 1960 as the James J. Buckler.

On June 13, 1960, during the first trip, the vessel stranded on Red Islet Shoal near the mouth of the Saguenay River. The ship was able to back off the perch but was leaking so badly that it had to be beached. The hull was reported to have cracked during salvage operations on June 16 and sank. Outarde had been a useful carrier on the Great Lakes, St. Lawrence and Atlantic Coast but it managed to find trouble on a regular basis— and eventually trouble won.

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Page last modified: April 12, 2004