Having just completed a wonderful 11 day voyage with Pearl Seas Cruises on PEARL MIST, cruising the Great Lakes & Georgian Bay , I stumbled on this video of an accident that happened back in 2001 in the Welland Canal. We transited the Welland Canal by night without incident, but I thought you would find this fascinating.
The St Lawrence Seaway is a joint US/Canada project inaugurated in by US President Dwight D Eisenhower and Queen Elizabeth in 1959 with the Queen sailing the Royal Yacht BRITANNIA all the way to Chicago.
The St Lawrence Seaway enables ships to pass all the way from the Atlantic to the far end of Lake Superior. The locks of the Saint Lawrence Seaway taken together make up the world’s most spectacular lift system raising ships going all the way from sea level to Lake Superior more than 590 feet or 180 meters above sea level, as high as a 60-story building. To reach Lake Superior ships must pass through 16 locks, some operated by the US and some by Canada. The most interesting is the Welland Canal, a series of eight locks that lift ships 326 feet, the height of a 30 story building, from Lake Ontario to Lake Erie, allowing the ships to get around the Niagara escarpment and … Niagara falls.
There are a number of bridges across the Welland Canal which must be lifted for the ship to pass through. And if someone forgets to lift the bridge or isn’t paying attention … here’s what happens. [Warning: scary video!]
Here’s what happened …
In August 2001 the Bulk Carrier WINDOC was lined up on the Welland Canal’s Bridge 11 in Ontario Canada. After receiving the flashing amber approach light indicating that the bridge operator was aware of the vessel, the captain lined up on the centerline and maintained a speed of 5 knots. Minutes later while the vessel was half way through the bridge started descending.
The Bridge Team’s Story … When the vessel was approximately halfway under the bridge, the third officer observed that the bridge signal lights were solid red and the lift span was descending. At 2053, the master sounded a few blasts on the ship’s whistle. The master, without identifying himself or the bridge in question, called the TCC on VHF channel 14 about the lowering of the bridge. The master quickly stopped the engines and ordered an evacuation of the wheelhouse. The master and third officer left the wheelhouse by the starboard navigation bridge wing. As they proceeded down the external bridge access ladder, the span of the bridge struck the vessel in way of the wheelhouse front windows, subsequently destroying the vessel’s wheelhouse and funnel. The helmsman remained at his station in the wheelhouse and lay down on the deck as the bridge span passed overhead. He freed himself from the debris and descended by the deckhouse stairwell alive.
Miraculously no one was killed in the event. [GCAPTAIN]