Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Whaleback Steamer -- June 29, 2010

From the 05-March-1895 San Francisco Call. WA Coulter did many maritime drawings for the newspaper. This one shows a whaleback ship. Several shipbuilders promoted whalebacks as the next big thing in the 1880s and 1890s. The hull curved like the back of a whale. The type did not catch on for various reasons. Many served on the Great Lakes, but only one, the Meteor, survives.


The Whaleback City of Everett Arrive From Puget Sound.


A Formidable Rival to the Local Liners— An Experimental Trip.

The whaleback steamer City of Everett, of which much has been written since she was launched from the place the name of which she bears, arrived in port yesterday morning with 3300 tons of coal for the Southern Pacific Company. She is a curious specimen of marine architecture, and her arrival brought down great crowds to the water front to get a peep at her. She came from Comox, B. C, stopping at Port Townsend to take on board twenty-three passengers. She was eighty-four hours from the former place and sixty-two hours from Port Townsend. Among the City of Everett's passengers were: Captain Alex MacDougall, inventor of the whaleback and general manager of the American Steel Barge Company of New York; J. B. Crooker, who represents the interests of the Rockefellers on the coast; A. W. Thompson, cashier of the American Steel Barge Company; James Smith, superintendent of the Frontier Iron Works of Detroit, which furnished the vessel's engines; Hugh Calderwood, who superintended the building of the ship; and several prominent citizens of Everett and their families. Messrs. Crooker and Smith were accompanied by their wives.

The vessel came up the harbor flying the blue peter from her foremast, a pennant with her name strung from the mainmast and her signal flags streaming from the mizzen, while the stars and stripes floated at the peak. The low sullen sound of her siren awoke the echoes in the surrounding hills, and people rushed out from all points wondering what strange craft had invested the waters. All the ferry-boats saluted the new comer and an opportune blast set off at Gray's quarry on Telegraph Hill lent warmth to the welcome accorded to the whaleback. A longshoreman wanted to know what warship that was and a facetious Custom-house official told him that it was a Japanese cruiser come to shell Chinatown. He believed it and spread the tale among the Italian fishermen, and there was great joy on the seawall and drinking of claret and much munching of macaroni thereat.

Captain Bucknam, who is in temporary command of the whaleback, is "shore captain" for the American Steel Barge Company, the owners, builders and operators of all the round-deck craft. He speaks in highest terms of the latest addition to the fleet and. says that the trip, down was a most pleasant one.

"We have on board 3800 tons of coal," said he, "and we brought down besides thirty-three in the crew twenty-three passengers. Although the vessel is not intended as a passenger-boat, still there was nothing but the greatest satisfaction expressed at the manner in which she behaved. SYe had a heavy gale, too, on the way down, but she rode through it like a gull. In rough weather we made twelve knots, and for a spurt reached a speed of fourteen and a quarter knots. On the entire trip we averaged about nine knots. Her mean draught is 19 feet 0 inches. Going back to Comox we will put in 1700 tons of water for ballast, and this, with her coal-bunkers full, will give her a draught aft of 16 feet, and 13 feet forward."

On the deck are four big turrets, each containing two hoisting engines. The vessel has eight hatches, which open nearly the entire length of the ship, and with her superior hoisting facilities it is estimated tnat she can be discharged in two days. Her engines are triple expansion and of the most modern designs. The deck is protected by heavy wire cables stretched from iron stanchions at intervals of about fifteen feet. It is impossible by this arrangement for any water to remain on deck. The main house rests on two immense turrets set on the after part of the deck, from which two gangways run forward to the bridge, on which is the captain's room, pilot and chart house. Four metallic lifeboats rest on the deck, ready for use at any moment. Steam steering gear is used, and the appointments all through are most thorough and up to date in every particular.

The coming of the Everett recalls the passing of the whaleback Wetmore. When that unfortunate craft came to the coast about three years ago it was predicted that there would be a revolution in the freighting business on the coast. Old mariners shook their heads and said she would not do, and when she went on the rocks in Coos Bay they said: "I told you so." The Everett is not much larger than the Wetmore, being a little over 1800 tons net, but she is stronger and especially adapted for the ocean trade. She will form the crucial test for the "coming" vessels and if she is a success more vessels of her class will be built on the Sound. Like the Wetmore she has a round stern and her bow ends in a snout.

"The Everett is an experiment on the coast," said Captain MacDougall, inventor of the whaleback. "The Wetmore was built for the lakes, but if she were properly handled she would have proved the worth of the whaleback. It was not her fault that she went on the rocks. The whalebacks have been severely criticized on the coast, but their critics have been owners of other vessels whose trade the new ships might injure.

"The whalebacks have been a success on the lakes and also on the Atlantic, where they have rode through storms which have wrecked vessles (sic - JT) of other models. Captain Bucknam has been twice through a hurricane, and he can attest the seaworthiness of the craft.

"The Everett is the thirty-ninth whaleback which has been built, and the fortieth vessel is now under construction at our yards at West Superior. We started to build the Everett when things were booming on the sound, but as the boom petered out we finished her up for the New York and Tamnico trade. If business warrants we will keep her on the coast, and may build more vessels. Forty vessels, including 130,000 tonnage, is a pretty good record for five years, and you can judge from that whether the boats are a success. We are in competition with no class of vessels, or with all classes, as you like. All vessels are in competition for that matter, and we are in it with the rest."

The Everett sailed yesterday afternoon for Port Costa, after landing her passengers.

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