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TimeLinks: The Sinking of the SS Princess

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Click to enlargeThe Princess was built in Winnipeg, and christened in 1881 by the Marquis of Lorne. Named after his wife Princess Louise, fourth daughter of Queen Victoria, she was considered at the time the finest steamer afloat west of the Great Lakes. With her two side paddles the Princess could travel at a top speed of 25 knots equipped with 40 passenger cabins. In 1885, she assisted with the transportation of the soldiers returning to Manitoba who had been sent west to fight in the North-West Rebellion.

After 1885, the Princess converted to a cargo vessel and the paddle wheels were removed, replaced by a four-blade propeller, and a new steam engine installed. The hull was extended and most of the cabins removed, only six were left with a kitchen and a small dining room.

The aging vessel sank in a storm on 26 August 1906 while crossing Lake Winnipeg. Two days before the Princess had left the Spider Islands and headed for Little George Island carrying a cargo of fish and eleven passengers. Around 6:00 pm, buffeted by a strong northeastern wind the ship began to take on water. When Captain Hawes attempted to make for the shelter of Georges Island, eight metre high waves broke the ship in half trapping many below decks. Six persons died, most of them crew, including Captain Hawes, but fourteen others escaped in two lifeboats, landing on Berens Island and near the village of Berens River.

Click to enlargeClick to enlarge

See also: Winnipeg’s Fortune family and the RMS Titanic | The Winnitoba and the Bonnitoba


This page was written by Brian Hubner.

Page revised: 12 November 2009

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