Sunday, April 19, 2020

Dartmouth Marine Slips - back then

Once a busy adjunct to the Halifax Shipyards, the Dartmouth Marine Slips catered to repairs for smaller ships. At one time it operated six marine cradles, all designed and built by Crandall Engineering. In fact Horace Crandall, a member of the American family that patented this particular system, moved to Dartmouth in 1862 to oversee construction of the first 200 ton capacity, horsedrawn unit for what was then the Chebucto Marine Railway Co, founded in 1859.

The Halifax Graving Dock Co, founded in 1885, took over the older Dartmouth operation in 1900 and merged it into the newer company. When Halifax Shipyards was formed, the Dartmouth Marine Slips remained a part through all the various owners until 2003 when it was closed and the property sold. By that time the repair of small ships - fishing vessels mostly and cargo ships, had really dried up and there was little real work going on in Dartmouth. The useful equipment was sent to Shelburne, NS, where Irving Shipbuilding Inc had rejuvenated another small shipyard. Interestingly Crandall Engineering worked on the expansion of the Shelburne Shipyard cradles.

A recent Facebook post seeking the location of a photo, (which I was able to confirm was Dartmouth Marine Slips), reminded me that the yard used to have its own whirly crane and that there was much interesting activity there, especially in 1970. And especially on March 21.

View of the "Long Wharf" from the Dartmouth Cove side of the yard, looking southward.

On the far left in the photo the supplier Lady Delia receives some attention:
[see today's Tugfax]
Note the many tanks on the barge's deck similar to the ones on the deck of Lady Delia in that post.]

Also alongside is the hydrographic ship CSS Dawson - still in white as it should be - in the days before the CCG imposed its red hulls on these vessels. In the background a Halco tanker Sea Transport, and on the right the aforementioned crane.

However monopolizing the scene is the drilling barge Western Offshore No. II. [Also referred to as WODECO II in some publications]. In the summer of 1969 it was towed from Halifax by the tug Mississippi to Hudson Strait where it was met by the Foundation Vigilant and two suppliers. It then proceeded to a position 250 miles east of Churchill where it began to drill a well. A severe storm caused the rig to "lose the hole" and resulted in severe damage. It was towed back to Halifax where things were put right again in time to drill off Prince Edward Island in 1970.

The barge was built on the bottom of the old mid-section of the T2 tanker Coxcomb Hill, built in 1945 by Kaizer, Swan Island. Renamed David E. Day in 1951, it was rebuilt in 1958 with a new cargo section. The rig worked off California and even in Cook Inlet, Alaska, but was obviously not suited for harsh conditions. It was supposed to go back to Hudson Bay in 1971, but following its first experience, never did, and it was not until 1974 that the abandoned well was finally capped.]

Western Offshore Drilling + Exploration Co, part of Fluor Corp, sent the rig to Peru in 1971. A gigantic blowout there resulted in irreparable damage to the rig, which was then scrapped. Flour's Annual Report for the year ending October 31, 1971 reassures shareholders that the rig was fully insured, but neglects to mention any deaths. I have seen several references to seven deaths, but can find no confirmed reports.

Of course the above photo was not the only one I took on that March 21:

From the Harbour side, several of the cradles are in use. Nearest, the coaster Cupids [see recent posts on coastal cargo ships] is in for its spring tuneup. One the other cradles, one of the harbour ferries, Dartmouth II or Halifax II and the USSR trawler Sloboda. Alongside is Imperial Oil's retired bunkering barge  I.O.Ltd. No.6. There were houses to the left that blocked the view somewhat. They were not among the most desirable addresses in Dartmouth, even though they had a spectacular view,  and were demolished not long after these photos.

Another photo from the same day appeared in one of my 2013 posts, which shows more of the barge and CCGS Sir John A. Macdonald at the old Coast Guard base. [The previous summer, of 1969, it had escorted ss Manhattan through the arctic.][ Some of the CCG fleet was still occupied in Chedabucto Bay where the tanker Arrow had run aground February 4 with disastrous results.]

Not showing in the second shot is the Western Offshore No.II derrick and the shipyard crane. From searching through my photos I think the shipyard crane was demolished about 1975.


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