Family 1962 - Page 2

Sinking of The Montrose
Detroit River

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The Night The Montrose Sank In The Detroit River
July 30, 1962

 Montrose Sinking, 1962

Lights blaze as the Montrose, dragged down river by the strong Detroit River currents, goes aground under the Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ont.

On a warm summer night in 1962, a gleaming white British freighter slipped its moorings at a Detroit dock and made for the up bound Detroit River channel for the long trip to Lake Superior.

On the bridge was the captain of the 444-foot ship, Captain Ralph Eyre-Walker, a third mate, and George Beatty, a Canadian Great Lakes pilot.

Also on the river that night was the tugboat B.H. Becker pushing a 200-foot barge laden with clinker cement from Port Huron bound for the Peerless Cement plant on the Rouge River.

Suddenly the ghostly white visage of the Montrose appeared out of the dark directly in front of the barge.

Wheelsman Alex McLean said the tugboat skipper blew a warning signal, reversed engines and threw a spotlight on the Montrose, but it was too late to avoid a collision.

The barge tore a huge hole in the Montrose's forward hull, allowing the river to pour in.

The ship began to list but Capt. Eyre-Walker decided to try to make it to the opposite side of the river where he could beach it in shallow Canadian waters.

But the bow began to settle as water rushed into the port-side gash, raising the stern and the ship's propeller out of the water and causing a complete loss of control.

Montrose, Under Ambassador Bridge, 1962

The Montrose, unable to steer with her propeller and rudder out of the water, was dragged down river by the strong Detroit River currents until it went aground under the Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ont.

The date was July 30. It was the first major collision and sinking in the Detroit River since foreign ships started using the St. Lawrence Seaway in large numbers in 1959.

Montrose, View From Rescue Boat, 1962

A view of the ship from a rescue boat.

Within an hour of the collision, 38 of the crewmen aboard the Montrose -- many of them young Italian seamen -- were brought to shore by the mail boat, a Coast Guard powerboat and a Detroit Police Harbormaster's launch.

Capt. Eyre-Walker and two officers stayed on board in an effort to protect the salvage rights of his company, the Montship-Cape Lines of Montreal.

Early the next morning, when it became apparent that the Montrose was sinking, the captain signaled he wanted to come off the ship.

With the ship lying on its port side, they were able to walk upright on a ladder across the starboard side. The ship went down in 45 feet of water.


Montrose, Salvage Workers, 1962

Salvage workers prepare to right the Montrose.

As word of the collision spread, thousands of curious spectators lined both shores of the Detroit River making it a summer tourist attraction.

Traffic slowed on the Ambassador Bridge as motorists craned for a view of the ship far below.

The Bob Lo boats reported a 20-percent increase in business as passengers sought a closer view of the wreck. The cruise boat Dee Cee, moored at the civic Center, made special trips around the wreck.

Bridge officials barred pedestrians from the Ambassador Bridge after 8 p.m., fearing for their safety.

Montrose, Curious Detroiters, 1962

Curious Detroiters line the bank of the Detroit River near the Ambasssador Bridge to view the Montrose lying on her side.

A 1967 Detroit News article says she was sold and renamed the Concordia Lago, under the Norwegian flag, and underwent final reconditioning in Norway. As far as it is known, she never returned to Detroit.

British Freighter Montrose

The British freighter Montrose became the first major ship to sink in the Detroit River since the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway.

(Source: The above photos and text are from Detroit News.)

My Dad's Slides of the Montrose


Montrose,  Detroit River, No. 034
The Montrose
Under the Ambassador Bridge, Detroit River

Montrose, Detroit River, No. 035
The Montrose
Under the Ambassador Bridge, Detroit River


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