The fall shipping season at Montague was always a busy time. Usually there were dozens of schooners, many from Newfoundland, calling at the port to pick up cargos of potatoes, turnips and other produce in the short gap between the harvest and the snows. At the same time there were some small steamers such as the Enterprise engaged in the local coastal trade. In November of 1913, however, the port welcomed a much larger vessel — perhaps the largest ever to visit the the wharves on the Montague River.
The S.S. Anna was a Norwegian steamer which had been chartered by Montague shippers Poole & Thompson to take a cargo from Montague to Havana Cuba. The Anna was a classic tramp steamer taking any cargos it could find to any port it could enter.
The ship had been built in 1900 in a Norwegian shipyard located in Grimstad. The vessel was 241 feet long by 35 feet wide, with 1,237 gross register tonnage, 747 tons net. Although not particularly large by steamer measurement its passage up the winding channel of the Montague River must have required extraordinary skill as the vessel had a draft of almost 15 feet. Even more impressive is the fact that the river near the wharf at Montague was only slightly wider than the ship was long and turning it to return down river would have been difficult.
The presence of the ship was sufficiently unusual that a local photographer, almost certainly William Cumming, made a photographic record of the officers, most of the sixteen member crew, and two of the ships cats. This was turned into a real photo postcard, a copy of which seems to have been kept by a member of the crew, quite possibly the captain as the note on the back of the card is signed “R”. The young captain, Roness Peterson (or Peetersen, in the Lloyds shipping record) impressed the Montague residents in that he had been commanding ships for more than thirteen years and the Anna for the last seven years.
The Anna loaded only part of its cargo at Montague, probably because of the depth of water at the wharf and in the river, and took on the rest at Georgetown. The ship loaded 9,060 barrels of potatoes, 1,194 bales of hay, and 109 barrels of apples bound for the Cuban capital. Although Poole & Thompson developed a trade in produce and timber with with Cuba over the years it had usually been small shipments carried by schooners and this appears to have been an attempt to develop the market to a new level. In 1912 Poole & Thompson brought the Furness, Withy & Co. steamer Swansea Trader up the river which was reported to be the largest ship to visit the port to that date. However, at 160 feet and 315 register tons it was considerably smaller than the Anna. The experiment in large volume shipping seems not to have been repeated and the outbreak of the Great War turned shipping interests elsewhere.
The War also changed the fortunes of the steamer Anna which does not appear to have re-visited Prince Edward Island. Although Norway was neutral during the conflict, Norwegian registered ships often carried cargos contributing to the war effort and about half of the country’s merchant marine was sunk during the conflict. One of these was the Anna. On January 19th, 1917, the Anna, on a voyage from Almeria Spain to Glasgow with a cargo of esparto grass which, among other things was used to make rope, was scuttled and sunk by the German submarine UC-16, near the western approaches to the English Channel 80 miles west of Ushant on the Brittany coast. The Anna was one of 43 ships sunk by the UC-16 in the course of the war. The Anna’s crew were set adrift in lifeboats and there were no casualties. One wonders if the ship’s cats made it into the lifeboats. Read more at wrecksite: https://www.wrecksite.eu/wreck.aspx?173143
This posting originated in a query from Phil Culhane of Ottawa who had acquired the postcard shown above. I am grateful to him for simulating my interest. Further research of local newspapers, Norwegian websites and a listing in the Lloyd’s Register of Shipping confirmed the identification.