The Prince Rupert Ships

The Prince Rupert seen entering Vancouver Harbour early in her career. The Grand Trunk Pacific logo, green maple leaf in red circle, is clearly visible on her centre stack. (Canadian Nautical Collection)

I’ve been thinking lately of ships named for the City of Prince Rupert. Before the city was established it wasn’t uncommon for ships to be named for our namesake, Prince Rupert of the Rhine. The Dominion Atlantic Steamship Service operated the sidewheeler Prince Rupert (1894) on the Digby – St. John run at the beginning of the 20th century, and the Hudson’s Bay Company ship Prince Rupert brought an ancestor of mine to York Factory on Hudson Bay in 1789.

The most famous of the ships named for the city was the Grand Trunk Pacific Steamship Company’s Prince Rupert, launched at Newcastle-on-Tyne in December 1909. As was the case with almost everything the GTP did, the success of the Canadian Pacific was meticulously copied – in the case of the Prince Rupert she was modelled on CP’s elegant Princess Victoria, and even built by the same yard of Swan, Hunter and Wigham Richardson. She carried 200 first-class and 36 second-class passengers, and 350 tons of freight.

The Prince Rupert (shortly joined by her sister ship the Prince George) arrived in Prince Rupert for the first time on June 15, 1910, and her registry was soon transferred here from Newcastle-on-Tyne. The Prince Rupert fell under control of Canadian National in 1920, and was absorbed into the CN Steamships fleet in 1923.

She was known as an ill-fated vessel. She was steaming out of Anyox in poor visibility when she ploughed into Green Island in March 1917. Low tide left her high and dry on the rocks, only 30 feet from the trees, making for many dramatic photographs. Incident piled upon incident. She was struck by lightning at Vancouver in January 1919, and fire broke out in her cargo hold in October. She sank after striking a reef at Swanson Bay in 1920, struck Ripple Rock in 1927, sank at the Yarrows yard at Esquimalt in 1931, and collided with the CP steamer Princess Kathleen just north of Prince Rupert in 1951. She was finally laid up in April 1955.

The Rupert City (ex-Powhatan, 1886) began service with the Mackenzie Brothers Steamship Company on the Seattle – Vancouver – Prince Rupert run in 1909. Made redundant by the Grand Trunk Pacific’s new ships she was sold to Japanese owners as the Chinto Maru and was torpedoed off Spain during the First World War.

H.M.C.S. Prince Rupert was an “Algerine” class frigate built by the Yarrow yard at Esquimalt, commissioned in August 1943, and made a visit to Prince Rupert the following month before entering service in the Atlantic. She joined British and US ships and aircraft in sinking U-575 north of the Azores in March 1944, was decommissioned after the war, and ended her days as a breakwater at Royston.

The most recent of our namesake vessels, the Queen of Prince Rupert, was a stalwart of the BC Ferries fleet for almost a half-century. The RO/RO ferry was launched in Victoria in 1966, and was considered the flagship of the BC Ferries fleet until the Queen of the North was introduced in 1980. The Queen of Prince Rupert was decommissioned at Prince Rupert on April 20, 2009.

That this number of vessels have carried Prince Rupert’s name speaks to the city’s prominence as the northern terminus of British Columbia’s vital Pacific coast service.

(First published in The Northern View, February 4, 2011.)

This entry was posted in Blog. Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Bruce Wishart
Whimsies. Sometimes about writing.
Sometimes about folklore. Sometimes
about the sea, or life on the coast.
And sometimes not.