||July 10, 2009
Canada Day 2009 – A Look at the St. Lawrence
Seaway on its 50th Anniversary
My column in Community Voices has
to be submitted on the Wednesday prior to publication the following week.
Today,as I write, is
Wednesday July first so you will see this July 9th outside North
Bay and July 10th in North Bay. Since July 1st is
Canada Day I decided to muse a bit on some Canadian history - the 50th
Anniversary of the St. Lawrence Seaway.
The Seaway is of interest to me
because I grew up in Port Colborne on the south
end of the Welland Canal and the canal - a 43km –
8 lock section of the Seaway, is part of my family history. I hadn’t been to
Port Colborne in
4 years until last week when I visited relatives and toured the city including
the canal and related development.
Canal (St. Lawrence Seaway) showing twin bridges in Port
I picked up a copy of the book The
Historic Welland Canal by Derek R. Miller which
tells the story of the 4 Welland Canals prior to the
Seaway . The book is
subtitled “The Historic
Welland Canals of Port
Colborne” (available at the Port Colborne
Historical and Marine Museum).
My maternal grandfather worked as a
diver on the 4th Canal which finished in 1932 when I was 1 year old.
He was a second generation member of a 6 generation family that still lives in a
house in Port Colborne
built in 1879. (My grandfathers brother was born 142
years ago – believe it or not – on July 1, 1867.)
My dad worked as an accountant at the
government elevator on the canal and I worked summers at the
Inco Refinery which was there because of the canal.
My first job as a 16 year old was assistant lightkeeper
one summer on the lighthouse a mile out in Lake
Erie where the ships passed.
When I became a teacher I taught on
the opposite side of the canal from where I lived and spent many moments waiting
for the lift bridge to come down so I could get home or to school. I also
walked the nearby railway bridge hundreds of times when I was a teenager because
my girlfriend lived on the other side of the canal. After four years we got
married on July 6, 1950 , had several children there
who also experienced the canal as we lived there for a decade A 17 year old
Port Colborne cousin Lee Spencer went sailing on a
canal boat The Cyprus and drowned in Lake Superior (see my article online on
September 28, 2007) Powerful memories on Canada Day.
The first canal was built 175 years
ago and the St. Lawrence Seaway was
completed 50 years ago in 1959. On June 26, 1959
with the world watching 33 year old Queen Elizabeth got off the Royal Yacht
Britannia and met President Eisenhower to open the Seaway. The Canadian
Steamship Lines based in Port Colborne put the first
boat through the Seaway as it did last week on the 50th when its
730 foot Sprucegreen went through. There were
many celebrations on the 50th including
one in St. Catharines on Saturday June 27th
at the Welland Canal Centre at Lock 3.
St. Lawrence Seaway
A new book The St. Lawrence Seaway:
Fifty Years and Counting by D’Arcy Jenish is
available at Penumbra Press and is also available online. It has many
photographs that indicate the monumental scale of
the Seaway project allowing the Atlantic Ocean
into the heart of Canada and the U.S. to Lake Superior.
New book The St. Lawrence Seaway:
Fifty Years & Counting by D’Arcy Jenish.
The Globe & Mail had a 2 page spread
on Saturday June 27th. It noted that the “engineering marvel
finished on time and under budget.” It took 22,000 workers four years and nine
months to build the 306 kilometre stretch from
Montreal to Lake Ontario. They also built various hydro electric dams.
The Globe & Mail stated that “the
seaway, arguably the world’s most impressive inland waterway at a cost that
would today top 7 billion (U.S.) transformed
centres along its shores, opening new markets and churning out a reliable stream
Now 50 years later there are
concerns. The seaway saltwater ships brought as many as 57 water creatures
including the invasive sea lamfrey and zebra mussels
into the great lakes with devastating results. Much has been done to correct
the problem and prevent more problems.
The Seaway with its fixed locks
restricts the length of ship that can pass and the world has developed
remarkable vessels that cannot pass through making revenue production an issue
when only smaller ships can be used
The advantages outweigh the problems
and the incredible Seaway which raises and lowers hundreds of ships some 180
metres from sea level to Lake Superior is a
feat to be celebrated now 50 years after its opening on Canada Day2009
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