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TRANSPACIFIC

by Skip Gillham

In May 18, 1971, the Transpacific got caught by the treacherous shoals around the French Islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The West German freighter joined other ships that made these waters their final resting place. The 398 foot, 9 inch long Cargo carrier had been built at Lubeck, Germany, in 1954 and started trading to the Great Lakes when the St. Lawrence Seaway opened in 1959.

The Transpacific

The Transpacific. Photograph courtesy of Al Sykes.

The ship, shown in a photo from the collection of Al Sykes, had been inland every year from 1959 until the time of her loss.

Transpacific was outbound with 11 passengers and a varied cargo of general freight, aluminum and logs when problems developed with the radar installation and Decca Navigator. The Captain radioed St. Pierre and requested that a technician be brought out when his ship reached the harbor anchorage.

Although heavy fog surrounded St. Pierre, local fishermen were at work when the Transpacific sliced though the fog, past their dories and bound for the shoals off Ile Aux Marines. Efforts to overtake Transpacific and warn of the impending disaster failed and the ship piled on the rocks of the deserted island that acts as a breakwall for St. Pierre harbor. The efforts of salvage tugs failed and a final, farewell dinner was held aboard ship before the engines were shut down and the vessel abandoned.

During the first night close to 70 island dories visited the ship as cargo, furnishings and provisions were lowered over the side and carried off. The French Government, fearing pollution, stated an oil spill would not be tolerated. The Captain returned the next day in an effort to restart the engine and pump off the fuel but the looters saw him coming and would not let him on board until their work was done. Eventually officials decided to burn off the oil and it blazed and smoldered for 61 hours. Meanwhile on the island, some homes were equipped with juke boxes for entertainment while others had riding lawn mowers for their sand swept lots.

Lawsuits and legal battles followed while the relentless forces of the waves pounded the ship into many pieces.

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Page last modified: December 19, 2003