Before the area below Lower Water Street (now extinct) between the Queen Street Wharf and the Marine and Fisheries Wharf was “re-developed” for natty shoppes for tourists it was the site of the marine railway where the Canadian Government Steamers and Department of Transport dredges and tugs were hauled up for repairs and winter storage. Before that, however, it was the site of the last shipyard on Charlottetown Harbour. There, on 10 June 1899, the government supply boat Brant was launched. The D.G.S. Brant was a wooden steamer 95 feet long with a beam of 19 feet and an 8 foot depth of hold. Her gross tonnage was 94 tons. Boasting all-Island timber the steamer was designed and built by John White of O’Leary for the purpose of supplying lighthouses on PEI and along Northumberland Strait. She was launched without her cabin and deckhouse and had yet to have her boiler and engines installed. However by 5 September of the same year she had been put in commission and embarked on fishery protection work. The following year she was attached to the buoy and lighthouse service.
The photo above is not identified but is very probably a picture of the Brant on launch day. The Welsh and Owen Building (later Carvell’s) on Queen Street is visible above the roofs of sheds on Lower Water. The photo is certainly consistent with the description of the scene in the Morning Guardian and the lines of the vessel are very much like the engraving which appeared in the paper.
The engine and boiler were built by Bruce Stewart and Company in their factory at the foot of Great George Street. She had a single ended, cylindrical return tubular boiler which operated at a pressure of 100 pounds per square inch. The boiler was nine feet in length and it had a diameter of nine feet. The two-cylinder compound expansion surface-condensing engine had the cylinders working directly on the shaft and the unit was planned to give a speed of nine knots.
There are few photos positively identified as the Brant. One shows her on the marine railway in winter storage at the foot of Great George Street. The characteristic corner pavilion of the Victoria Hotel is visible in the background and a government dredge can be seen to the east of the Brant. Her tug-like configuration can be seen. She had on-board accommodation for 12 men but no steam was kept up for the winter. A cone-shaped plug kept snow from the funnel. In the winter of 1902-1903 a change was made to the Brant’s appearance when a “whaleback” was added to protect the bow from water coming over the forward part of the boat when it encountered high seas. This change is useful in helping date some of the photos of the ship.
From 1900 until 1928 she was in service with the Dominion Government carrying supplies and equipment to lighthouses around the Island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. She also rescued a number of vessels that had gone aground and helped tow government dredges to various ports in the region.
Not all of her duties fell within the official remit of the Department of Marine and Fisheries. For example on one occasion she carried government officials and the Bishop of Nova Scotia to Victoria for the laying of the cornerstone of the Crapaud Anglican Church. On another, the members of the Natural History and Antiquarian Society were treated to an excursion to Brush Wharf and St. Peters Island to collect geological, zoological, and botanical specimens.
The photo above shows the DGS (Dominion Government Steamship) Brant moored at the east side of the Marine and Fisheries Wharf immediately in front of the unmistakable DGS Earl Grey. The date of the picture is probably about 1912 when Bruce Stewart was developing gasoline engines for his runabouts, a number of which can be seen in the foreground moored in front of the Bruce Stewart plant.
In 1927 a new Brant was launched at the Government shipyard in Sorel Quebec. In the summer of 1928 the two Brants shared dockage but the older wooden vessel was soon sold. In 1929 she was overhauled in Pictou and fitted with electric lights and a cold storage plant. Re-named the S.S. Amla she was first owned by the International Fresh Fish Corporation and it was planned that the vessel would travel to ports in the region and pick up fresh codfish for freezing and later shipment to markets by express rail. However the venture was not a success and after claims of unpaid wages by the crew she was seized by the Admiralty Court and eventually became the property of Bruce Stewart and Company. A newspaper account in 1936 noted that her original boilers were still operational and that she was being used as a tug attending one of the government dredges. Eventually the Amla was worn-out and was broken up in Pictou in 1944.