Tag Archives: Gulnare

Delight in the Details; One Photo – Many Stories

The winter of 1905 was a long one for the Island. The ships of the Charlottetown Steam Navigation Company, faced with ice forming in the Strait, ceased crossing and were laid up on 12 December 1904. They would not begin to run again until 24 April 1905. Their cross-strait duties were taken over by the Dominion Government Steamers; the Stanley and the Minto, and crossings soon shifted from Charlottetown to Summerside and Georgetown although it was not long before the ice blocked the harbour of Summerside as well.  Government steamers without ice protection such as the survey vessels working on mapping the coastline of Newfoundland had tied up even before the Steam Navigation Company boats and their crews were discharged for the season.

The photo above, taken sometime in 1905, shows the wharves as completely ice-locked.  The unknown photographer is standing in the track of a horse and sleigh which has crossed from the Southport shore. In close-up bushing can be seen on the ice marking the safe routes which began at  the foot of Great George Street extended up the West River and across the harbour.

In this detail you can see the Plant Line terminal building with its characteristic truncated gables and moored alongside the Plant Line Wharf are the three-masted Royal Navy survey ship Ellinor and ahead of her the Canadian Government Steamship Gulnare. In winter ships were not tied tightly to the wharves to allow ice to form around them and ride up and down with the tide. What appears to be a canvas cover has been erected over the decks of the Ellinor to protect them from the snow. Ships boats and other removable equipment have been moved from the ships to indoor storage.   The scene is overseen by St. Dunstan’s Cathedral and the Christian Brothers School at the head of Great George Street. If you look closely you can see the spruce poles marking the bushed route across the ice.

Moored across the end of the Steam Navigation Company wharf is the S.S. Princess. Behind her are the shops and warehouses of the Bruce Stewart and Company foundry and factory. There appears to be a major overhaul of the Princess underway. The funnel has been removed from the ship and a derrick is in place over the boiler and engine room space. Annual re-fitting of steamers was a mainstay of the Bruce Stewart business.  Above the Princess the five-story tower of the Victoria Hotel at the corner of Great George and Water streets, and the spires of the Presbyterian and Anglican churches can be seen.

The easternmost section of the photo shows the area between the Steam Navigation wharf and the Prince Street Ferry Wharf.  In front of the bow of the Princess, the wooden City of London and the Steam Navigation Company’s flagship, the S.S. Northumberland, are lying in the basin between the two wharves.  The funnel of the Northumberland has been topped with a large cone to keep snow from filling the funnel and causing rust in the engine area. The two masts of a schooner show that another vessel is frozen in just ahead of the City of London. The huge roof of the Methodist Church (now Trinity United) looms over smaller buildings. Just visible to the right is the cupola of the roundhouse of the Prince Edward Island Railway at the south-east corner of Prince Street and Water Street.

Owing to the quality of the glass-plate negatives used to take photographs at the turn of the twentieth century and before, details can be found buried in the background of many period pictures.  While the overall scene and the beauty of the composition can be seen from a distance the real stories often require a magnifying glass.

Gulnare – A Significant Name in Canadian Marine History

The name Gulnare should be one of the most important ones in the of the history of Canadian hydrography but today it is hardly known.  Ships carrying the name were closely associated with nautical charting and naval service for more than a century and several were linked with the history of Charlottetown harbour which served as home port to the vessels through most of the 19th century.

Gulnare was an extremely popular name for a ship in the 19th century.  Almost 30 vessels carrying the name appear on the Canadian shipping registers between 1832 and 1902 and there were other ships which were named Gulnare which do not appear on the registers.  There are two possible sources for the name. In the Arabian Nights Gulnare, pronounced with three syllables as Gul-Nar-Ah, was the daughter of Farasche whose husband was king of an undersea kingdom. She was captured and became a slave to the King of Persia who took her for a wife. The other source for the name, pronounced with two syllables as Gull-Nair, is Byron’s poem The Corsair which tells the story of Gulnare the queen of the harem rescued by Conrad and when Conrad was captured confessed her love, murdered the Sultan and escaped with Conrad to the Pirates Lair.

The name was carried by six, relatively small, survey vessels which operated in Canadian and Newfoundland waters between 1828 and 1949, many of them associated with Captain (later Admiral) Henry W. Bayfield and his successors in the charting of the St. Lawrence River, the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and Newfoundland.

The first Gulnare, a two-masted schooner of 146 tons with a figurehead of the bust of a woman was built in Taylor’s shipyard in Quebec and delivered to Bayfield in May 1828.  It was owned by William Stevenson, a Quebec merchant who was to continue as owner of several of the Gulnares chartered by the Admiralty. The vessel was chartered by the Admiralty from 20 May to 1 November for 300 pounds. Bayfield was charged with charting the St. Lawrence River and operated out of Quebec.

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Admiral Henry Wolsey Bayfield, long time commander of several of the Gulnares

In 1841 the survey was transferred to Charlottetown as the work became concentrated on the Gulf of St. Lawrence.  Prior to the transfer of the headquarters the Gulnare was inspected and found to be suitable but in 1843 Bayfield found the Gulnare “so decayed that I consider her unfit to be retained in H,M. Service.” He notified William Stevenson that the contract was voided unless he agreed to replace the old vessel with a new Gulnare of 175 tons to be built in Charlottetown under Bayfield’s supervision. The vessel was launched from the Steam Mill Wharf at the shipyard of Messrs Peake and Duncan on 18 May and christened by Lady Huntley, wife of the Lieutenant Governor. This vessel appears to have lasted nine years  but its fate is not known.

In 1852 a 3rd Gulnare was launched in Quebec on 3 May and arrived in Charlottetown only a few weeks later. This vessel was rated at 220 tons. Like its predecessors this one was chartered for use of the Admiralty Hydrographic survey and was also owned by William Stevenson.

Commander John Orlebar succeeded Bayfield in 1857 and he was the first to employ steam driven vessels, using the Lady Le Marchant in the survey of Newfoundland. In 1861 the succession of Gulnares was again briefly broken by the chartering of the Margaretha Stevenson, also owned by the Stevenson Family. In 1865 the Admiralty decided on a complete re-survey of Newfoundland and this was the job on which the vessels were then employed for more than 40 years. .

The next vessel used in the survey was also a steamer and returned to the name Gulnare. The first steam Gulnare was built at Charles Connell & Co.’s Overnewton yard on the Clyde in 1867. She was a 205 ton composite screw steamer of 132 feet in length, 20 ft breadth and drew 11 feet. Her single screw was driven by a 50 horsepower engine. The iron frame and wooden planking was sheathed in “yellow metal” (likely copper). This vessel too, was chartered rather than owned by the Admiralty, the first registered owner being Daniel Davies of Charlottetown.  The ship was under the control of Commander James H. Kerr until 1871 when Commander W.F. Maxwell succeeded him,  In 1877 the owner was James Duncan & Co. and on 25 October 1877 the Gulnare was offered for sale conditional on her being discharged from Admiralty service.  She was subsequently owned by parties in Glasgow and London in Great Britain and in Kingston, Jamaica. In 1880 the Gulnare was used by the ill-fated Howgate Arctic Expedition which was a complete failure. At the time the vessel was in poor condition and the U.S. Navy refused to participate in the venture for that reason. She later operated in the Caribbean. The vessel, owned by a company associated with the United Fruit Company, sank with a full load of bananas in the Gulf of Mexico in May 1887.

Charles Connell & Co. were also the builders in 1878 of the next Gulnare  which, like the 1867 ship was a single screw composite steamer. She was slightly larger at 247 tons, 240 feet long by 21.8 in width with a draft of 11 feet with 70 hp steam engine.  She arrived in Charlottetown in mid-May 1878 following a passage from the Clyde of only 9 1/2 days, believed to be a record passage between the two ports at the time. Like the other Gulnares the survey vessel was chartered rather than owned by the Admiralty. She was initially registered as belonging to  Alexander MacLeod of Orwell Prince Edward Island and was under the captaincy of Commander Maxwell and after 1891, of Commander William Tooker.  She operated primarily in the waters of Newfoundland.  In 1892 the Gulnare she was sold to the Glace Bay Mining Company which became part of the Dominion Coal Company formed in 1894.  Two years later, in August of 1896, the Gulnare was wrecked near Canso N.S.

The sixth survey vessel Gulnare in Charlottetown Harbour about 1893. Note the curved roof of the stern deckhouse which is useful in identifying the vessel in later photos. Photo: Public Archives and Records Office

The sixth survey vessel Gulnare in Charlottetown Harbour about 1893. Note the curved roof of the stern deckhouse which is useful in identifying the vessel in later photos. Photo: Public Archives and Records Office #3218/64

The likely reason that the Gulnare was sold in 1892 was the building of yet another survey vessel of the same name which was launched early in 1893 and completed a month later.  Once more the builder was Charles Connell & Co.  This steamer, at 137 feet, was almost exactly the same length as her older namesake but owing to a slightly larger breadth (20.5 ft.) and depth (13.6 ft.) had a larger tonnage (262 vs. 247). This vessel too, was registered to Captain Alexander MacLeod but for much of this period was skippered by Commander Tooker. Since no pictures seem to exist from the earlier vessel it is difficult to know how they differed but this consistency in measurement suggests that it had been found to be a suitable size for surveying operations in the difficult Newfoundland and Labrador coastline.

Because the Gulnare operated out of Charlottetown and wintered there, several of her crew were from Prince Edward Island. On one of her early voyages to the west coast of Newfoundland a crew member captured images of the ship, as well as photos of the outports, which are found in accession 2670 at the Public Archives and Records Office.  Shots of the ship are seen below:

Gulnare on Newfoundland 1893. PARO #2670/35a

Gulnare in Newfoundland 1893. PARO #2670/35a


Gulnare at unidentified wharf. ca. 1893 PARO #2670/35b

Gulnare at unidentified wharf. ca. 1893 PARO #2670/35b

Besides the interesting curved roof of the stern cabin, which is mirrored in small curved deckhouses just below the funnel these photos also show several of the launches from which much of the actual sounding and surveying was done.  Also to be noted is the lack of protection for the navigation station on the upper deck which seems to be open to the elements except for a canvas skirt.

The Gulnare continued to work in Newfoundland waters and spend winters in Charlottetown until 1902 when her charter agreement expired and she was replaced on the survey by the steam yacht Ellinor (ex-Princess Alice) the following year.  The Gulnare was acquired by the Government of Canada and was refitted for tidal and current surveys on the East Coast and lower St. Lawrence.  At this time the shellback on the foredeck and protected navigation station were probably fitted as seen below and in  later pictures. The tide and current work led to the production of accurate tide tables and revisions to information about currents which aided navigation, especially as regards Bell Isle Strait.

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Gulnare, probably taken at the time of the ship’s acquisition by Canada in 1902

In 1912 the Gulnare was placed on duty as a tender and relief lightship on the Lower St. Lawrence. This work was interrupted by the outbreak of the Great War when the Gulnare was placed under naval control.  It is not clear if she was commissioned but several  sources refer to her as  HMCS Gulnare although the naval files reference CGS (Canadian Government Ship) Gulnare.  She operated as a patrol vessel on the East Coast for the war period and appears on the 1918 Navy List as an examination vessel in the auxiliary listing. In 1918 and 1919 she was used for contraband patrols but was returned to the Department of Marine and Fisheries in 1920.  She appears to have been used as a tender and lightship but also returned to tidal and current surveys in the early to mid-1930s.


Gulnare, possibly at the time of sale in 1937. Note the large central anchor which may relate to her use as a lightship. National Defence photo

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Gulnare, possibly at the time of her sale in 1937. The curved stern deckhouse and side structures below the funnel ore clear as well as the later shellback foredeck. The fixture at the top of her foremast is characteristic of a lightship.

By 1937 she was surplus to requirements and was offered for sale. She was acquired by Manseau Shipyard, Sorel Quebec which became part of Marine Industries Ltd. when it was formed a year later. She may have been used in connection with the large dredging operations of the company. Her name appears in connection with naval requisitions during WW II but it is not clear if she was used by the navy. She was broken up in 1946 or possibly 1949.

Through a succession of commanders who provided essential details of the waters and shores of what is now Atlantic Canada the name Gulnare was very much a constant. While a few hydrographic features such as Gulnare Bank near St. Pierre and Miquelon and Gulnare Rocks near Lewisporte Newfoundland carry the name it is, like many aspects of Canada’s nautical history, in danger of being forgotten.

Mystery Yacht Identified

Unidentified ship min Farquharson album

Unidentified yacht, Farquharson album, Public Archives and Records Office accession 3909 #55 (click on photo to enlarge)

Every archive and museum has them – in some cases by the hundreds or thousands. Unidentified photographs that could tell a tale but are silent. They are mute storytellers waiting for some key to unlock their importance.  The photo above is one of them. A white steam yacht. Even with its uneven exposure  and marred by a number of blemishes it is still a striking photo – or at least a striking ship.  It is inserted into one of the final pages of an album almost exclusively devoted to detailed construction photos of the building of the Hillsborough Bridge and the background is recognizably the Southport shore of Charlottetown Harbour. All of the other photos seem to be from 1900 to 1905. However none of the photos in the album are captioned and without a name the vessel’s place in the history of the harbour is a mystery. We are left with a three-masted steam yacht with no name. What was it and what was it doing in Charlottetown Harbour?

Searching for resources for a planned story on the building of the Hillsborough Bridge I found the photo but it clearly had no link to the bridge itself. A few days later searching for information on the survey ship Gulnare a hint is found in the Guardian for 22 June 1903:

The new surveying ship Eleanor which is to take the place of the Gulnare arrived in port Saturday night, eleven days from Portsmouth with Capt. Tooker and Lieut. Musgrove in charge.  The Eleanor is a handsome three-masted steam yacht apparently very suitable for her work. She was purchased by the British Government from the Prince of Monarco [sic], whose private yacht she was. She will probably sail Tuesday, a month later than usual, to continue admiralty survey off Newfoundland.   

This seemed to tell the tale. Except – a further search of records fails to find any record of the Eleanor belonging to the Prince of Monaco and there is no record that a ship named the Eleanor was ever in the Royal Navy. A few days later the unravelling of the mystery is begun by the following note in the 20 October 1903 Guardian:

The Gulnare is at the Steam Navigation Wharf, where she is undergoing repairs which are being made by Bruce Stewart and Company. The Ellinor will also receive a thorough overhauling during the winter months.

So, if not the Eleanor, could this be the Ellinor with an understandable confusion as to spelling?. The search re-commences and a listing is found in a volume titled Ships of the Royal Navy by J.J. College which notes ” Ellinor (ex-screw yacht Eberhard) Survey ship, 593 gross, 180 (o/a) x 27ft. Purch 1901. Fate unknown. ” It was reported in the Halifax Chronicle that the ship had been acquired from the Prince of Monaco by a “well-known yachtsman in England” (who presumably had changed the name as there of no record of the Eberhard in connection with Monaco) but that omits one link in the chain of ownership. But what of the “ex-screw yacht Eberhard“?

The story of the Eberhard contains a gruesome chapter in the yacht’s history. By 1900 the ship was registered in Hamburg and was owned by Bruno Mencke, son of a German chocolate millionaire, Eberhard Mencke. She was used by Bruno to mount what became known as the First German South Seas Expedition in 1901. After visiting several Islands the scientific expedition landed on Mussau, one of the St. Mattias Islands of the Bismark Archipelago, then a German territory. After the yacht had departed to re-coal and pick up more supplies the camp was attacked by the Island’s natives and the expedition doctor and two policemen killed. The rest of the party, including several wounded, escaped to a nearby trading post where Bruno Mencke died of wounds received in the attack. It was subsequently discovered that the three bodies left behind had been consumed by the natives who practiced cannibalism.  Later that year a landing party from a German cruiser accompanied by police landed on the island and massacred 81 natives, including women and children in retaliation.  It is not surprising that the Eberhard was a disposed of soon after her return to Germany.

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Princess Alice before foreyards were removed.

The buyer was Spencer Chapman who re-named the vessel Ellinor and moved the registration to London.  It turns out that the Eberhard was not the first name that the vessel bore and learning her initial name  finally revels the connection between the ship and the Prince of Monaco.  Part of the reason why the vessel was chosen for the German scientific expedition may have been that it was uniquely equipped for the task, having been built specifically for scientific research with a considerable amount of auxiliary machinery and several laboratories on the main deck, as well as providing sumptuous accommodation for the researchers as well as the crew of the ship.


Portuguese stamp honouring Prince Albert, showing the Yacht Princess Alice.

The vessel was built as the auxiliary yacht Princess Alice for Albert the First of Monaco who had a noteworthy career as an oceanographer. During his reign he commissioned four oceanographic research vessels.  The Princess Alice was the second of these ships and was named in honour of the Prince’s  second wife Marie Alice Heine, dowager Duchesse de Richelieu. Marie Alice was the daughter of a New Orleans building contractor who had married well and was widowed at an early age.

The ship, launched 12 February 1891, was built on the Thames at the Blackwall, London shipyard of R & H Green.  It was a single-screw, three-masted, single-stovepipe-funnelled, auxiliary-topsail schooner of about 600 tons.

Princess Alice

Builders model of the Princess Alice 1891. Royal Museums Greenwich, Green Blackwall Collection

Detailed descriptions were provided of the ship in both The Marine Engineer and Naval Architect and Engineering. She was 168 feet long, 27 feet wide and drew 12 feet. Two boilers were fitted; one to drive the vessel at a top speed of 9 knots, the other to provide power for electric lights aboard.  Her frames were of steel and the planking of teak with teak used for the deck houses and finishing throughout. She was not dependant on her steam power however, as the Ratsey & Lapthorne sails on the three masts had a spread of 12,000 feet.

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Princess Alice about 1896 – from Results of the Scientific Campaigns of the Prince of Monaco Vol. 84. NOAA ship collection

The Princess Alice was used in seven scientific voyages between 1892 and 1897, mostly in the Mediterranean and North Atlantic. She was replaced in 1897 by the larger Princess Alice II and the first ship was offered for sale. It is not clear when she was acquired by Mencke.

The steam yacht was used  by the British Admiralty in 1903 to replace the privately-owned survey ship Gulnare, whose charter agreement had expired.  The charter term for the Ellinor was five years or until the survey of Newfoundland and northern Canada had been completed. Records suggest that she may have been purchased by the Admiralty sometime during this period.  The Gulnare later returned to government service in connection with the tidal survey.  The Princess Alice was used on the Newfoundland survey until at least 1912 although after 1904 she was probably based out of Halifax rather than Charlottetown. In 1912 the Ellinor was transferred to the West Indies for further surveying in the Kingston Jamaica area.   I have been unable to learn of the fate of the vessel after 1912 but another researcher has found a reference to a British government vessel named Ellinor as late as 1919.

The few photographs found of the Princess Alice as well as the builder’s model leave little doubt that this is the vessel in Charlottetown harbour in 1903 although the 1903 photo shows an added upper-deck wheelhouse. The Ellinor was one of the many vessels that contributed to the accuracy of Canada’s nautical mapping but her role appears to have largely been forgotten.  Still, it is nice to know that a photo of His Majesty’s Survey Ship Ellinor, ex-Eberhard, ex-Princess Alice while anchored in Charlottetown Harbour in 1903, is part of the collection of the Public Archives and Records Office. Every picture tells a story.

SS Ellinor - card front (3)Post script 2019: The Ellinor was the subject of an early postcard (publisher unknown) dating from 1906 which was mailed in Halifax (which may very well have been where the photo was taken). I am indebted to Allison Nelson who is responsible for the very useful pictoupostcards.com site for sharing this image of the card which she discovered in Cambridge Ontario.