Tag Archives: John Orlebar

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.

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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.

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Surveyors in the Gulph – Margaretha Stevenson Comes to Charlottetown

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The Margaretha Stevenson on the ways at the foot of Great George Street in the early 1860s. Today the Colonial Building and the brick house at the corner of Water street remain, as well as part of the stone foundation for the warehouse which now makes up part of the garden wall.

Not Launched from Prince Edward’s Isle

The photo is a dramatic one. Against the background of the early 1860s Great George Street and the Charlottetown waterfront a ship, completely rigged, stands ready to be launched. But the picture is not what it seems…

The trim little vessel was not built in a Charlottetown ship yard, nor anywhere else on the Island. Indeed surprisingly for a country rich in timber and with a shipbuilding tradition, the ship was not even built in Canada but in a shipyard on the distant Firth of Clyde in Scotland.  The other surprise is that the vessel was a steamship. Although sporting the rig of a topsail schooner the ship was registered in Glasgow, its first port, as an iron screw steamer.

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Detail of the Margaretha Stevenson showing the propeller at the stern of the vessel. Also clear is the topsail schooner rig and the relatively small size of the ship.

The topsail schooner was a popular rig for P,.E.I.-built ships, many of which were sold in the United Kingdom.  Its blend of square and fore-and-aft rigging allowed for good manoeuvrability with a smaller crew and it was often used on coastal vessels.  However, in a closer view a three-bladed propeller can be seen and in a later view of the ship (seen below) the funnel for the steam engine can be spotted. In addition it would have been highly unusual for a vessel to be launched fully rigged. A more logical explanation is that the ship has been hauled out of the water for re-fit or repairs.

The ship is the Margaretha Stevenson and her presence in the port of Charlottetown is part of a significant chapter in the history of the harbour. It was a time when Prince Edward Island was at the centre of production of nautical charts detailing the east coast. For more than forty years the port was an important component  of the British Admiralty’s plan for charting the world.

The Survey of the Gulph

It begins in Quebec in 1841 when Captain (later Admiral) Henry Wolsey Bayfield was nearing the completion of his charting of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River. Seeking a better site from which to continue the survey of the Gulf and Newfoundland he moved his establishment to Charlottetown.  Although engaged in surveying the coasts between the break-up and freeze-up during the winter months in Charlottetown the surveyors returned each fall to offices in Charlottetown to plot the soundings and observations of the previous season. After preparing  the plans and charts they were forwarded to the Admiralty Hydrographic Office in London to be engraved.

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Admiral Henry Wolsey Bayfield in later years

Bayfield, having overall responsibility, insisted on accuracy of location and name, good style, and the best scale for each chart. His staff gradually increased to include three assistant surveyors, a draughtsman, and a medical officer. While on survey duties his assistants customarily went off in surveying boats for a few days or weeks to work on a survey while Bayfield laboured elsewhere, but he was always in command. His surveyors were provided with detailed  instructions and they were required to report to him in person or by letter on a regular basis. He set a high standard which he expected his men to follow. He was impatient with carelessness, inaccuracy, or indolence, but he showed appreciation for good work and did not hesitate to recommend his assistants for promotions.

By 1848 Bayfield and assistants had completed the surveys of Prince Edward Island, Northumberland Strait, part of Gaspe, and Cape Breton and he moved the work on to other areas including the Halifax area and Sable Island before retiring in 1856. In retirement he was promoted Vice-Admiral, Rear-Admiral and finally Admiral in 1867. He died in Charlottetown in 1885.

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Captain (later Admiral) John Orlebar

Bayfield was succeeded in the survey work by Captain John Orlebar who had been his assistant since 1836 and has credit for many of the P.E.I. charts, including Charlottetown Harbour and the Hillsborough River. Once Orlebar had taken command of the survey the attention of the Admiralty shifted to Newfoundland and Orlebar was directed to take his survey crew each year to northern waters although the headquarters remained in Charlottetown until 1863 when it was removed to St. John’s.  In the 1860s the survey team  included a number of Islanders including Frederick W, Hyndman who had joined the Royal Navy a few years earlier. Hyndman is noted as assistant on a number of Newfoundland charts created during the period.  Orlebar initially used the steamer Lady Le Marchant for his Newfoundland work but in 1860 the Admiralty chartered the Margaretha Stevenson which may have been built specifically for the purpose. In 1864-65 the vessel helped survey the route and assisted the Great Eastern in the laying of the Atlantic cable.

The Story of the Ship

The Margaretha Stevenson was not large ship but was very effective for getting into small harbours along the coast.  The 114 ton vessel was 110 feet long and 18 feet wide and drew 10 feet. Launched from the yard of William Denny & Bros. at Dumbarton Scotland in April 1860 she crossed the Atlantic later in the season under sail. Her 2 cylinder, 28 horsepower engine had been put in place in Scotland but was not used during the crossing.  It is possible that the photo above may have been taken at the time of the arrival of the ship in Charlottetown when the engines were made operational.  The registered owners up to 1869 were members of the Stevenson family of Quebec.  William Stevenson was a merchant there who had business connections to Prince Edward Island and was a correspondent of James Peake. In 1846 he bought the steamer St. George from the Prince Edward Island Steam Navigation Company and also owned the Pocahontas, another of the vessels which linked Charlottetown and Pictou. Stevenson was also owner of several of the vessels used by Capt. Bayfield in the survey, all of which were called the Gulnare and one of which was built in Charlottetown.

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Margaretha Stevenson caught in ice while owned by the Moise Company 1867. Note the funnel and the diminutive size of the ship – Arthur Henderson Photo McCord Museum

In 1869 the Margaretha Stevenson was sold to W.M. Molson, a member of the Quebec brewing and banking family, and her survey duties came to an end. The vessel was used in connection with a venture called the Moisie River Iron Company, formed to exploit magnetic ore discovered near Sept Iles on the Quebec North Shore.  The ship later passed through the hands of a number of other owners and was primarily used as a passenger and freight carrier for the service along the North Shore of the St. Lawrence between Montreal and Anticosti and Quebec and Natashquan. In 1879 the owners changed name of the vessel to the Otter. Passenger accommodation was expanded and in 1886 the small ship was licensed for 125 passengers  but it is hard to imagine that many on board in safety. The registry was closed after the vessel was wrecked near Riviere-du-Loup in dense fog in November 1898.