May 26, 1905 (10th Parliament, 1st Session)


Joseph Raymond Fournier Préfontaine (Minister of Marine and Fisheries)



I can only give that information generally, and from memory. We are perfectly satisfied with the boat's work. It is acknowledged by every one connected with navigation that, with the severe winter, had it not been for the ' Montcalm ' breaking the ice at Cape Rouge from early winter, the ice would not had left the channel until the 15th of May, on account of the vast accumulation. It will be . remembered that the ice in the gulf delayed steamers for five or six days. The ice was so thick and solid that, had it not been for the work of the ' Montcalm,' the route would not have been cleared until the 10th of-May. The ' Montcalm ' kept the river clear of ice from Cape Rouge for two or three miles to the piers of the Quebec bridge. It did not prevent the ice from forming at certain points where the river is very narrow, but the keeping of the channel clear alone helped the departure of the ice so much that the ' Montcalm ' herself was nearly caught in the spring movement. No accident took place, because the ice-shove was ahead of the steamer and she was following it. The

boat has proved very solid and very effective in every way. I went myself with some of imy officers and some people connected with navigation at different times to be present at the work while the - steamer was breaking her way through the ice. The last time I was there there were several members of parliament from the west in the party, and they were really astonished at the work done. The boat broke a channel in ice that was twenty-five or thirty feet thick

ice that was stuck to the bottom in some places. I would not say that if X had not witnesses, members of parliament, who saw it as I did. The boat would break as much as 600 feet in a day over a width of 200 feet. Of course, this work was done at a time when the ebb-tide would carry down the ice. The effectiveness of the boat was interfered with by one thing that could not have well been foreseen. She was brought out from Scotland late in the season, arriving in Quebec about the beginning of December. ' She had two sets of blades. That is, she had two propellers, and she had six extra blades for her propellers. These blades were broken at different times, and, although we ordered a new set, only one set arrived in time to enable her to continue effective work. The day when the members of parliament were aboard she had only one complete propeller, the other one having only one blade. But even with this disadvantage she did the work I have mentioned. After she had got through this work she was ordered to go down and meet the steamers that were supposed to be kept back by the ice. She went down almost to Newfoundland, and there came face to face with an immense field of ice about ten miles long. The ' Montcalm ' is fitted with the Marconi system. But, unfortunately, the boats that first arrived were not fitted wih the system, so she could not communicate with and could not give the help they expected from her. Therefore, she returned to Quebec. We wished also to send her down to Seven Islands, in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, to make ail experiment in maintaing navigation during the winter, but, owing to the circumstances I have explained, this could not be done. The other ice-breaker, the ' Champlain,' though a very much smaller boat, kept navigation open on the ferry route between Murray bay and St. Denis wharf throughout the winter, except for a few hours during particularly stormy days. Altogether our experiments show that navigation throughout the winter is perfectly feasible, even under the most unfavourable circumstances, because last winter was, as everybody knows, a season of extreme severity.

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