The Ithaca Shipwreck

Oceans and Seas » Arctic
October 7th 2009
Published: October 7th 2009
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The Ithaca sits on the tidal flats.The Ithaca sits on the tidal flats.The Ithaca sits on the tidal flats.

Technically, the Ithaca is actually in Canada's Nunavut Territory! The Mean tide line is the Manitoba/Nunavut boundary.
The Ithaca...

Official Number 150820

Launched - 21st October 1922

It is about a 800m hike at low tide to get out there.The 260 ft MV Ithaca has been sitting on a bed of gravel on a shallow tidal flat off the Manitoba coast about 15 km east of Churchill since September 14th 1960.

During the last few years Theresa and I have made several visits to the ship and we've even spent the night camping on the stern, which included an amazing sunset and sunrise and aurora...

The following text is a summary of a report from Price Ray of Peter Martin Associates Ltd. 1970.

In 1960, a nickel mine near Rankin Inlet, Northwest Territories (now part of Nunavut Territory) chartered the Greek ship Ithaca to transport the ore to Churchill, Manitoba. The ship was hired as it was in Montreal at the time and was about to sail back to Greece empty. Arrangements were made by the ship's owner in Athens and off she went up the Labrador coast and through the Hudson Straits to Rankin Inlet.
A gentleman by the name Billy Carson was employed by North Rankin Nickel
The fourth deck.The fourth deck.The fourth deck.

A lot of the floor had rusted through so we had to watch where we put our feet!
as a mechanic and when he saw the Ithaca anchor off shore he did not like what he saw!

"She was a complete wreck", he said.

However, the ship was quickly loaded with 3000 tons of ore and set course for Churchill. After unloading at Churchill, the ship was loaded with some pre-fab housing units and a small supply of mining equipment. As soon as the ship was loaded the crew walked off the ship. They complained to mine representatives that they had not been paid for more than two months. After a few negotiations they were paid and they headed back to Rankin Inlet.

"Looks like dirty weather", one of the crew announced.

Rain was hitting the decks and the wind was picking up and within a short while after leaving the Port of Churchill, the Ithaca had been engulfed by the storm and was being tossed around. The captain tried to turn the ship around and head back to the safety of the port but the sea and wind was too strong. The Captain dropped anchor and the situation was eased a little - but not for long! The ship was straining in the
The cook house.The cook house.The cook house.

Complete with a tiled floor (at one point in time).
wind so much that it snapped the anchor chain causing it to bob up and down so much that it snapped the rudder off! Now the ship was completely helpless! She drifted and rolled until she was driven into a reef 750 metres from shore, ripping the entire bottom of the ship out.

All 37 crew members survived.

In the following few days after it ran aground, it was emptied of its cargo by truck and hard physical labour, but all the cargo was eventually removed.
After all the cargo was removed, salvage rights followed. Many people in town stripped the ship of whatever they found useful...

From Lloyds Maritime Information Services.

The British flag steamship "Ithaca" of 2057 tons gross, built 1922, registered at the port of Nassau, Bahamas (which was a British colony), was wrecked on September 14th 1960, shortly after leaving the port of Churchill. The 38 year old ship, which was listed under the registered ownership of Ithaca Shipping Company, of Nassau, New Providence Island, Bahamas departed from Churchill on September 14th 1960, bound for Rankin Inlet, NWT, carrying 30 tons of equipment that included two generators and several
The view from the ship.The view from the ship.The view from the ship.

The seemingly endless tidal flats of the Manitoba coastline. The tides have an 18 ft range twice a day and because of the flatness it can go out several miles.
pre-fab (plywood) panels for the Canadian Department of Transport. She was soon driven aground off Bird Cove, 10 miles east of Churchill, at the location N58º46'42" by W093º53'24", after her rudder broke during an 80 mph gale. Badly holed, lying on a boulder strewn beach with her machinery space flooded and her rudder torn off, she was abandoned and settled as a constructive total loss by her insurers...

The Name of the Ship.

The "Ithaca" had been built by Frazer Brace Ltd, at Trois Rivieres, Quebec as the 'Frank A Augsbury'. She was sold at an unknown date and her name was changed to 'Granby'. The ship was sold again in 1948 and renamed 'Parita 2', then sold again in 1952 and renamed 'Valbruna'.
In 1952 she underwent another sale and this time the name was 'Lawrence Cliffe Hall' which can still be seen at the stern of the ship. In 1955 the owners changed yet again and was renamed 'Federal Explorer'. Finally, in 1960 she was named as 'Ithaca'. The name that she had during the final few months of her life is the name that will forever rest on the bleak and windswept shores of the mighty Hudson Bay.

Thanks for reading. We'd welcome any feedback.

Dave and Theresa.

Additional photos below
Photos: 22, Displayed: 22


The ladder to the top.The ladder to the top.
The ladder to the top.

Of course I didn't climb to the top... Doing silly and dangerous things just isn't in my nature?
The hole in the hull.The hole in the hull.
The hole in the hull.

George is looking for a way to fix it up.. "you know, if we just weld a patch on there" etc...
The anchor winch.The anchor winch.
The anchor winch.

Rusted gears, but the grease caps were still full of grease! Incredibly, a local man took the anchor and has it in his front yard. The anchor weighs 2 tons, and was 20 feet up the side of the boat!?
The water boilersThe water boilers
The water boilers

The ship had a diesel fired steam engine.
Inside the boiler.Inside the boiler.
Inside the boiler.

I VERY rarely use flash photography. I had to make an exception here.
Walking the flatsWalking the flats
Walking the flats

George, Casey and Tom hike the flats back to mainland.
From the AirFrom the Air
From the Air

From the window of a turbo beaver (Wings Over Kississing).
Sitting Offshore.Sitting Offshore.
Sitting Offshore.

Not a great image, but the Ithaca can be seen in its resting place.
Aurora from the Ithaca.Aurora from the Ithaca.
Aurora from the Ithaca.

Taken whilst in my sleeping bag on the outer deck at 3 am.

24th January 2010

Blog of the year 2009, Oceans and Seas photography category.
Check this out. :)
5th November 2010

Hi I am very surprised to hear about this vessel. The name LAWRENCECLIFFE HALL was given to a 730' laker built in 1965 in Lauzon. But there used to be another LAWRENCECLIFFE HALL, before, a steam cargo vessel that look to be the vessel you went on near Churchill. I saw a photograph of her taken in November 1956. She was owned by Hall Corporation of Canada Ltd., Montreal, QC. It is the same shape, same masts configuration.
24th November 2010
The hole in the hull.

She has looked better....
She had all her paint and an upright funnel when I was taken by my parents to visit her at ....age 4 in 1962. The hole in the hull is doubtless caused by ice floes pressuring the plates and eventually pushing them inward and tearing her apart. They say she was one of Aristotle Onassis' vessels... He might have been a little miffed if the insurance was denied by Lloyds. Many thanks to Theresa and Dave for these excellent pictures!
22nd June 2012

Ft Churchill and Ithaca
I was surprised to see that the Ithaca was even there anymore. When I was 11 years old (1961) my father was stationed at Ft Churchill, as a USAF liaison officer. On one day during the summer we went with a few other families for a walk out to the Ithaca. At the time her hull was quite solid, as a result we weren't able to get on board. I found out around 1980 that the Canadian AFB had been razed, from a young lady I met in Mexico. She was a teacher at the town of Churchill and thought I was lying to her about being there as I had asked her for a dance and was amazed to hear where she was from. Her sister told her that there were still foundations of what used to be housing quadraplexes connected by corridors. You can see the original buildings in a picture taken from the air by googling Ft Churchill under images. Your article has great interest for me.
24th February 2013

My Ithaca Visit
Myself and three other teachers hiked out to the ship back in 1987. The hull was wide open then and we were able to climb on board. Most everything that was not welded down had been removed. I've heard that it is no longer fit to be boarded due to ice, rust and sea damage. It is still a popular photo spot for both locals and tourist alike.
14th January 2014

1970 trip to Churchill
when we went up to Churchill, we walked out to the ship on the one day when it was the lowest tide of the month and spent a lot of time beside the ship because the only way you could climb aboard was up the rusting steel cables hanging down. We were told by the locals that it was a former Mussollini's troop ship converted to a cargo ship and the crew got into the vodka she was shipping back to Europe (lol) and ran agound. Still a beautiful Manitoba moment! and Churchill is a must see before you die.

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