Saturday, May 14, 2016

Buried Treasure on the Dartmouth Shore - Part 1

A section of the Dartmouth shoreline in the area of the Angus L. Macdonald bridge has been largely ignored for many years, cut off as it is by the rail line. Except for the long time presence of Fader Agencies, most of the shoreline is undeveloped and unattractive.

Now that part of it is in use as a staging area for the Macdonald bridge re-decking project (the Big Lift),  people are taking a closer look and uncovering some interesting relics.

CBC News became interested in one of the relics and have posted the following item on their news site:

Below the bridge is the former home of  base of The J.P.Porter Company Limited, general contractors, starting south of where the bridge now stands, running north almost to Jetty Lima (the Naval Armaments Depot Jetty). Porters filled in along the shore to create a marine base that housed a fantastic collection of scows, dredges, tugs and the miscellany of a large marine construction firm. The shore was gradually extended outward over time, covering up several scows and ships in the process.

During the early days of the bridge construction, the Porter yard was in full swing. They have already begun to fill in along the shore line, building piers over sunken hulks.

J.P.Porter, a Nova Scotia native, worked on railway construction in the west in the early days of the 20th century. He returned to Halifax in 1913 and worked for Foley Bros, Welsh, Stewart + Fauquier on the Ocean Terminals in Halifax. He also carried out marine salvage work during World War I and operated a shipyard in Hantsport.

Porter founded his own company in 1921 and went on to build the seawall and deepwater pier B in Halifax. 
He expanded his reach all over eastern Canada and as far west as the Welland Canal in 1921, and dug a 12 foot diameter tunnel through bedrock in Boston.

The J.P.Porter Company had every kind of floating equipment imaginable to carry out its work.

In fact filling in land along the shoreline was one of their specialties.

 J.P.'s four sons ( R.F., T.T., J.P.P., and L.T.) took over the business, with headquarters in Montreal, but had marine equipment scattered around ports all over eastern Canada. They tended not to invest much in maintenance, and abandoned old equipment where it was last used, although some was brought back to Halifax and left to rot.

The company was eventually sold to the Simard family in Quebec (owners of Marine Industries Ltd) and their own dredging company Richelieu Dredging, became a subsidiary of The J.P.Porter Company.

In the 1970s tHE J.P.Porter Company and several other dredging contractors and their officers were convicted of conspiracy to defraud for rigging  Federal Government dredging tenders, and some of the company officers were sent to jail.
In order to pay millions of dollars in fines, the companies were liquidated. Much of Porter's equipment was sold for scrap and some was broken up at the Dartmouth base. Once that was completed, other ship scrappers set up shop in the same area and scrapped more ships, but that ended in the late 1980s. Since then the area has been left as a wasteland.

I prowled that shore in the seventies and documented the end of the Porter company. With camera in hand, I unofficially inventoried what I could and had free run of the place thanks to a friendly watchman who determined I was harmless.

A page from my inventory shows twenty-one hulls. All but four of which were either sold or scrapped. The rest are still there.

Here is a sampling of what I saw:

The the Angus L.Macdonald bridge spans the harbour over the old Porter base.

Looking east across the harbour toward HMC Dockyard, the dredge Lockeport is at the end of the pier.

The workboat J.P.P.No2 with the dredge Ashbridge in the background.

The crane barge Hamilton 56 (which was only broken up last year) and the trawler Cape Beaver which was to be converted to a spoil carrier, but the work was abandoned.

The workboat J.P.P.No.6 which was still in use moving the barges around to be scrapped, the former naval lighter J.P.P.No.5, and the dredge Nova Scotia.

From left to right, an unnamed scow and the tugs Catalina (sold to become Beaver Lily) and D.Lauder (sold to become J.Manic) await their fate. Halifax Shipyard, in the background has the PEI ferry Lord Selkirk on the floating drydock.

Porter had several buildings on the site. This one was on higher ground above the railway tracks, and although it was demolished, the concrete floor slab is still there, in a fenced off parking area used by the bridge workers.

This pair of wharf rats had just liberated some rolls of drawings. I think the statue of limitations will ensure that they are free and clear by now.
Piles surround the bow of the sunken Daisy - see more below.

By 1980 most of the Porter floating equipment was gone, and other ships had arrived for scrapping, but there was still a great deal of material left partially filled in on the shore.

An old scow is sunk with fill over it and some spuds and other debris on top, right under the bridge.

Halifax Shipyard's barge Haltern No.1 was laid up on the outside, the hulk of the partially demolished ship Koralle, and the bow of Daisy, which had been sunk and filled as a pier face. Piles driven around it had rotted and it was more visible than it had been in years.

Built in 1911 in Aberdeen, Scotland, Daisy was taken over and completed by the Royal Navy in 1912. In 1920 it was sold to the government of Newfoundland as a revenue cutter to combat smuggling on the south coast. It was in Burin, NL at the time of the 1929 Tsunami and figured in the subsequent rescue operations.
Porters acquired the vessel in about 1945 and used it as a tug for few years. It must have been laid up before 1949 because its registration was never translated to Canada when Newfoundland joined Confederation. It was sunk as part of the jetty in the 1953 picture at the top of the page, and its remains are still visible today.

Several other notable vessels were scrapped at the former Porter yard, but little remains to be seen of them today, however it is possible to spot remains of the following:

Koralle seen here at the CNR pier, south of the bridge in 1977,  was built in Landskrona, Sweden in 1937 as Wiros. Its somewhat shady career during World War II remains to be researched. In 1959 it was renamed Koralle (which was the name of Admiral Doentiz' naval headquarters complex in Berlin).
In 1967 Shaw Steamships of Halifax bough the ship and traded to the Caribbean and on northern supply, since it was built to a Baltic ice class.
In 1968 it struck a submerged object and had to be beached near Fort Chimo. It made its way back to Halifax and never returned to service.
Scrapping began in the summer of 1977 .

 Koralle's 15 person clinker built wooden lifeboat was cast aside but largely intact in 1979.

By 1980 the icebreaking bow, complete with draft marks was still standing, with the hull of the Daisy barely visible in the foreground covered with debris and the remnants of piling.
(Sharp eyes will have detected Gulf Canada ex B.A.Peerless in the background.)

Eventually the bottom of the Koralle was moved closer to shore, but its keel and stern post are still visible at high tide on the north side of the old Porter pier. (see part 2)

As the name implies, Westwhale 8 was a whale catcher, built in 1953 in Arendal Norway as Suderoy XVII. It became the Norwegian Kos 52 in 1959 then Toshi Maru No.22 in 1961. It came to Canada's west coast in 1963, becoming Westwhale 8. It was brought to the east coast in 1968 for Arctic Fishing Products Ltd of St.John's. H.B.Nickerson acquired it from the federal government for a mere $6,000 in 1974, but it could not have seen much sea time for them. It went to various owners until arriving in Halifax in 1977.

Westwhale 8 spent some time at the A.M.Smith wharf (now part of the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic) before moving to the old Porter pier for scrap in 1977. That is the former health inspection launch Salucan III under her bow, and a well known waterfront character Bruce R.P.Parsons at the foot of the gangway.

Part 2 to follow..............


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