Rusting pleasure craft catches fire in Selkirk Park

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Arson is being blamed for a fire that destroyed the rusted hulk of the once-iconic ship, the MS Lord Selkirk II, on Tuesday, sparking tempers and heated words about the fate of the storied vessel.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 19/06/2012 (3821 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Arson is being blamed for a fire that destroyed the rusted hulk of the once-iconic ship, the MS Lord Selkirk II, on Tuesday, sparking tempers and heated words about the fate of the storied vessel.

The cruise ship, touted as the biggest vessel between the Great Lakes and the Rockies in its heyday, sailed the Red River to Lake Winnipeg for 20 years, welcoming the Queen on a cruise during the province’s centennial in 1970.

Fire crews were dispatched after a 911 call that reported flames aboard the boat.

Nicole Beerman / Winnipeg Free Press Smoke billows from the MS Lord Selkirk II where it sits aground near Selkirk, Tuesday. The former river cruise ship has not been used for many years.

Crews spent the afternoon putting the fire out, but not before local politicians issued some hot rhetoric of their own.

"There will be hell to pay. We had to put guys on that thing to get the fire out. Lives on the line due to irresponsible ownership," Selkirk deputy Mayor Duane Nicol told his followers on the social network Twitter.

Selkirk Mayor Larry Johannson said the ship had deteriorated into an eyesore and a hazard, but the city couldn’t dismantle it themselves. They’d hoped new owners would do the job for them.

The ship had been sold as scrap in 2010 and the town had signed a permit last week to allow the new owners to cut the hulk and remove it piece by piece. But it didn’t happen soon enough for town officials.

"We were hoping to clean this mess up and get it out of our waterway," Johannson said.

It was a pathetic end, others said.

The ship had been abandoned and left to rust in the back of a slough north of Selkirk since 1990.

Residents said Tuesday it was repeated vandalized and in recent years local kids were seen to frequent the ship for late-night parties.

RCMP reported that the fire is suspicious and said the Manitoba Fire Commissioners Office, along with Manitoba Conservation officials, were on the scene to investigate the cause of the fire.

 

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History of the MS Lord Selkirk II

After the MS Kenora retired its engines in 1965, people wanted a new ship to sail Lake Winnipeg in style.

The demand was so large that a group called Lake Winnipeg Navigation Ltd. formed to devote themselves to raising funds for a new ship to sail the lake. The group eventually raised over $1.2 million towards the project: a grand ship measuring 176 feet long and 41 feet high.

The MS Lord Selkirk II would navigate the stormy, unsure waters in a changing economic landscape of marine travel for two decades.

Here is a look at the history of the MS Lord Selkirk II, with all of its successes and setbacks:

1968 — Construction of the MS Lord Selkirk II began in Selkirk, Manitoba by Purvis Boats (later Purvis Navcon Ltd.).

June 7, 1969 — The MS Lord Selkirk II is launched on a Saturday at 2 p.m. in the Selkirk slough.

Phil Hossack / Winnipeg Free Press Firefighters stream water into the wheelhouse of the smoking hulk of the MS Lord Selkirk II on Tuesday.

June 9, 1969 — Norah Michener, wife of then governor general Roland Michener, popped a bottle of champagne on-board to christen the ship. The bottle broke on Norah’s second attempt at popping it. A bad omen?

June 23, 1969 — The MS Lord Selkirk II sailed its maiden voyage on the Red River from Selkirk to Winnipeg. Captain Ken Lyons served as skipper to a crew of 30.

July 1970 — Queen Elizabeth, Prince Phillip, Prince Charles and Princess Anne joined then premier Ed Schreyer to travel on the Lord Selkirk to celebrate Manitoba’s centennial.

December 1971 — Lake Winnipeg Navigation Ltd. sold the ship to Venture Manitoba/Manitoba Development Corporation, an organization operated by the provincial government.

July 21, 1974 — The MS Lord Selkirk II sails in the first ever Great Red River Boat Parade with a bunch of other ships such as the MS Paddlewheel Queen, the MS River Rouge and the MS Lady Winnipeg. The parade came to an electrifying halt when the Lord Selkirk’s mast struck hyrdo wires at a CPR bridge near Kildonan Park. Nobody was injured.

April 1977 — Low water levels in the spring of 1977 made it difficult for the Lord Selkirk to exit the slough where it sat all winter. Public Works took four weeks to deepen the slough so the ship could sail out into the entrance of the Red River.

1978 — A year of troubled waters for the LS2, as Sub-Arctic Expeditions purchased the boat from Venture Manitoba/Manitoba Development Corporation. High waters prevent it from operating all season.

1983 — Bill Harris and local car dealer Jim Gauthier bought the LS2 for $250,000 from Sub-Arctic Expeditions under the company Funship Cruise Lines. The company began offering day and evening cruises. Harris later bought Gauthier out.

March 26, 1986 — Selkirk businessman and former MP Joseph Slogan purchased the ship from Harris.

1988 — The Lord Selkirk ran aground north of Winnipeg while cruising the Red River. Crew members are forced to row to shore in a life boat.

1990 — Unbeknownst to then-owner Slogan, the LS2 sailed its last navigational season in 1990. The ship would undergo extensive engineering and mechanical work following the season until the winter of 1991.

1991 — Slogan decided to idle the Lord Selkirk II after declining passenger traffic. It is docked again in the Selkirk slough where it continues to sit for years.

2003 — A complaint is filed after over a dozen people claim they were sexually abused by former first mate of the LSII in the early 1970s.

2010 — MS Lord Selkirk II sold to unnamed party to be used for scrap.

June 20, 2012 — The MS Lord Selkirk II catches fire.

katherine.dow@freepress.mb.ca

History

Updated on Tuesday, June 19, 2012 5:45 PM CDT: Updated

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