• Freighter
  • 20 – 105ffw
  • 250f Length
  • St. Lawrence River
  • N44 35.358 W75 40.625

Chronological History

  • 1910 – Launched
  • 1910 – Crossed Atlantic
  • 1910 Repairs Kingston
  • 1911 – Jun Lost Sailor
  • 1911 – Stranded Jul St. Lawrence River
  • 1912 – Sunk St. Lawrence River
  • 1913 Salvaging Begins
  • 1914 Salvaging Suspended
  • 1919 Salvaged Cargo

Toronto Telegram Tuesday, October 29, 1912 #

The KEYSTORM With Cargo Of $120,000 Value. Kingston, Oct. 26. — The steamer KEYSTORM coal laden from Ashtabula to Montreal sank 7 miles from Alexandria Bay this morning. She struck Howe Island Reef at 4 o’clock in the morning and gradually filled, then she suddenly slid off and went down in 120 feet of water. Her crew landed while she was ashore and afterwards were taken to Brockville.      

Buffalo Commercial Advertiser August 26, 1913 9-3 #

The KEYSTORM was owned by the Keystone Transportation Company, of Montreal and with her cargo of 2,500 tons was valued at $120,000. It is likely tenders will be called for raising the sunken steamer.      

The Salvage Assoc. yesterday awarded the contract for raising the STM. KEYSTORM, sunk in 70 ft. of water in the St. Lawrence River near Kingston, to A.J. Lee of Montreal, representing the Compressed Air Salvage Co. The salvage company took the contract on a no-cure-no-pay basis and will be paid a percentage of the value of what it recovers.

Buffalo Commercial Advertiser October 14, 1913 7-3 #

The KEYSTORM sank Oct. 26, 1912 after going ashore. Wreckers have examined the wreck but none, except the company which has the contract, would bid for the job.      

The Compressed Air Salvage Co., which has the contract to raise the STM KEYSTORM, sunk in the St. Lawrence River near Kingston, has started wrecking operations and expect to have the boat up in a short while. The vessel is to be floated by having air pumped into her hold to displace the water.      

Vessel men are watching with keen interest the outcome of the wrecking operations which have just started near Chippewa Pt., St. Lawrence River, where the freighter KEYSTORM has lain in more than 100 ft. of water since Oct. 26 of last year, when she foundered after striking a rock in a fog.       Upper lake wreckers who visited the spot last winter made soundings over the submerged ship regard the task of raising her as hopeless owing to the great depth of water. Since then Contractor A.J. Lee of Montreal has been enlisted in the work and he is on the scene with divers and wrecking outfit on board the STM. RELIANCE. Contractor Lee is to use a compressed air system in his effort to float the KEYSTORM. As this method is new in these parts the operations will be followed closely by boat owners.  

Mills Listing #

  • KEYSTORM (1910) C129749
  • Built Wallsend UK
  • Propulsion: Screw
  • Tonnage (gross): 1673
  • Final Location: Near Brockville ON Canada
  • How: Wrecked
  • 250x43x18 Owned by Keystone Transportation Ltd. Built by Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson, Wallsend England 1910. Engine 15-25-42×30. Wrecked in fog 26/10/16 12 miles west of Brockville. Wreck sold 1917 to J. Richardson & Son, Kingston; coal cargo removed 1919.


Buffalo Commercial Advertiser October 27, 1913 9-3 #

The KEYSTORM lies in one of the deepest parts of the river and if she is brought safely to the surface it will be a great feather in the cap of the contractor. It is estimated that the value of the boat and the cargo of coal that went down with her is between $250,000 and $300,000. The KEYSTORM was built 3 years before she sank and is a steel steam barge of modern type.      

NOTE:- The KEYSTORM was a bulk freighter under Canadian registry but built in Wallsend, England in 1910. She is steel in structure 254 feet long and has a 43 foot beam.      

While being navigated through dense fog, she foundered on Scow Island Outer Shoal, twelve miles from Brockville, within the American boundary of the St. Lawrence. She was on her way to the Montreal Light, Heat & Power Company with 2,400 tons of coal from Charlotte, N. Y., when she hit the shoal on October 26, 1912. Her starboard bow gave way to the impact and four and a half hours later, after her crew of twenty gathered belongings and sought safety, she sank stern first into from 25 to 100 feet water.      

Ship of the Month No. 58 Keystorm #

Investigation into the Loss of the S.S. KEYSTORM #

Following is the finding of Commander H.L.G. Lindsay, Dominion Wreck Commissioner, who was assisted by Captains F. Nash, F.J. Thomson and J. McGrath, acting as assessors: The KEYSTORM, a vessel of 1037 tons register, belonging to the Keystone Transportation Company of Montreal, engaged regularly in the coal trade between various coal ports in the United States and Montreal, left Charlotte, N.Y., on October 25, about 3:00 p.m., for Montreal with a cargo of 2,273 tons of coal and arrived off Tibbett’s Point in the St. Lawrence about midnight. At 12:15 a.m. on October 26, the master gave over the charge of the navigation to his first mate, with orders of a very definite nature as to what he should do, but for some reason or other did not go below to his quarters, but remained on the forward deck, evidently not being quite satisfied of the first mate’s ability to run the vessel in the intricate channel in that locality and also being doubtful as to the state of the weather, which was at that time unsettled. At 3:00 a.m., the ship being off Alexandria Bay, the master retired to his bed, the weather conditions, according to his evidence, being the same, but he did not take off his clothes, evidently expecting a call. From that point, the vessel proceeded safely up to Sister’s Island Light, which was a perfectly straight course from Sunken Rock Light. When passing the Sister’s she ran into a bank of fog which obscured all lights and landmarks. The first mate then showed a total disregard of prudence or common sense and, not knowing what course the vessel should steer by compass, never having, as he said, paid any attention to such a method of navigation, he tried to take the customary course by using what he supposed was the glimmer of the light on Sister’s Island over the stern, but without being able to see the gas buoy on Chippewa Point Shoal which under ordinary circumstances would have shown on the starboard bow. Then, being doubtful of the ship’s position, and without any reduction of speed, he sent down to call the master, but before this could be done the ship struck on the Outer Scow Shoal and became a total loss. The court finds that the master, Louis Daigneault, showed a lack of judgment in allowing the mate to take charge of the navigation of this valuable vessel in this particular locality where the greatest amount of care is necessary for navigation even during the daytime, knowing as he did the limited experience the mate had in this work, and he’s going below at 3:00 a.m. was an act of culpable negligence as there were still dangers to avoid and in less than two hours it would have been daylight. The court, therefore, suspends his certificate from November 1, 1912, to November 1, 1913. With respect to the conduct of John Leboeuf, the mate, the court is of the opinion that his neglect to call the master when the weather became thick, his lack of initiative in not stopping the engines when he lost his bearing, and his utter disregard of the compass course to be steered, was gross and culpable negligence, and suspends his certificate from November 1, 1912, to November 1, 1914. The court severely reprobates the very loose method of navigation which seems to be customary on vessels of this class, and particularly the want of compass courses, and suggests a printed card of all courses and distances on the various runs, the card to be hung up in the pilothouse, ready for instant reference in case the leading lights or marks become obscured as happened in this case. The court is of the opinion that everything was done in the engine room with regard to the pumping arrangements, but in spite of this, the water gradually gained and ultimately caused the vessel to slip off the shoal into deep water and founder about five hours after stranding. No attempt seems to have been made to try to get the vessel off the shoal and it is the court’s opinion that under the circumstances it was just as well that such was the case. –

If KEYSTORM had a short career on the lakes, her sisters did much better for themselves. KEYWEST ran through 1946 at which time she was condemned. Laid up at Kingston, she was scrapped there in 1947 and her remains were shipped by rail to the Sault Ste. Marie plant of the Algoma Steel Company. KEYPORT was to survive the longest. Keystone Transports was taken over by LaVerendrye Line Ltd. (Quebec Natural Gas Corporation) in 1957 and during 1957 and 1958 the less economical Keystone ships were retired. Five steamers, however, were kept in operation through the autumn of 1961 at which time operations were closed down, LaVerendrye Line being acquired by the Hall Corporation in 1962. The ships that finished out the service were KEYBAR, KEYSTATE, KEYSHEY, KEYVIVE and the oldest ship in the fleet, KEYPORT. She lay idle at Kingston until 1963 and on June 5 of that year was towed to Port Dalhousie where she was scrapped in the old drydock by A. Newman and Company. But for the carelessness of two men, KEYSTORM might also have lived to operate into her second half-century.

2008 Photos Tom Rutledge CC #

Canadian Railway and Marine World, December, 1912. #

KEYSTORM at the time of her loss was valued at about $125,000 and her cargo at $300,000 and accordingly her owners were understandably reluctant to abandon her. In the early spring of 1913, a diver was sent down and he reported that the steamer was lying on her starboard side in deep water, with her bottom ripped out for a distance of about 60 feet back from the bow. The diver’s opinion was that it would not be possible to salvage the ship and, as a result, KEYSTORM was officially abandoned in April 1913. The underwriters let a salvage contract to A.J. Lee of Westmount, Quebec, and he arranged for salvage gear to be brought from Quebec, with airlocks and compressors coming from New York and divers from Halifax.

It was determined that the stern of the ship was resting in 102 feet of water and it was thought that if the vessel could be lifted by means of compressed air, she could be shifted about three ship lengths into much shallower water and there the remainder of the necessary work could be accomplished. Lee was apparently interested in proving certain of his theories on the subject of compressed air and its value in salvage work and he started work in the fall of 1913 to seal up the wreck in preparation for the lift. Lee went back to work on KEYSTORM in the spring of 1914 when weather conditions were suitable, but his efforts proved unsuccessful and the sunken collier stayed right where she lay on the bottom of Chippewa Bay. As the years of the First World War passed, other salvagers talked of the possibility of raising the ship and reclaiming her cargo but nobody ever succeeded in bringing the canaller to the surface.

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