The Axe Falls On 107 Years Of Service: ST. MARY’S CHALLENGER

SOUTHDOWN CHALLENGER August 28, 1999.  Photo Richard Weiss © 1999.

SOUTHDOWN CHALLENGER August 28, 1999. Photo Richard Weiss © 1999.

Last Sunday, November 11, 2013, saw the final sailing of the ST MARY’S CHALLENGER (ex WILLIAM P. SNYDER, ELTON HOYT II, ALEX D. CHISHOLM, MEDUSA CHALLENGER, SOUTHDOWN CHALLENGER). According to Richard Weiss, who sent me these pictures of her (taken in 1999), along with the details in this article, the self-unloading cement carrier will be cut down to a barge over the winter.

SOUTHDOWN CHALLENGER August 28, 1999.  Photo Richard Weiss © 1999.

SOUTHDOWN CHALLENGER August 28, 1999. Photo Richard Weiss © 1999.

Built as a traditional Great Lakes bulk carrier (hull #17) by Great Lakes Engineering Works, Ecorse (Detroit), MI in 1906.  WILLIAM P. SNYDER was launched February 7, 1906 for Shenango Steamship & Transportation Co. (subsidiary of Shenango Furnace Co.), Cleveland, OH. 

SOUTHDOWN CHALLENGER August 28, 1999. Photo Richard Weiss © 1999.

SOUTHDOWN CHALLENGER August 28, 1999. Photo Richard Weiss © 1999.

In Richard Weiss’ words:

“To my knowledge she was the longest running ship still in commercial service. I saw her many times but not so much over the last decade, as her normal sailing became the run from the little resort town of Charlevoix, Michigan to South Chicago. It is hard to think that after a career spanning over 100 years she will be largely gone. True, she was re-engined and her superstructures re-built in 1966 at the ripe old age of 60, so she was not exactly original but most ships built when she was re-engined have long since vanished. The number of years this ship was in service are difficult to grasp but it is safe to say her sailings were witnessed by generations of enthusiasts, both in her as-built configuration as the bulk freighter WILLIAM P. SNYDER and after conversion to carry cement. Think about it this way — if you were in your teens when most people find their fascination with ships when the CHALLENGER was new you would have been born around 1890. When the ship was completed, the brand new MAURETANIA was the fastest and largest ship in the world and the TITANIC was not even on the drawing board. The MAURETANIA has been gone for nearly 80 years and the CHALLENGER sails on.  The first moving assembly line, that of the Ford Model T, was still two years away, few people owned automobiles and there were even fewer airplanes. Detroit at the time had more millionaires than any other city. Commercial airlines would not be developed for many years; the jet aircraft was decades away and there is probably not a single person at the ship’s launching that would have thought man would ever land on the moon. Teddy Roosevelt was president. Two world wars and many years after, the ship is still doing what she was designed to do, but as of Sunday she will be powered no more. Her stern will be cut off over the winter and the forward superstructure will be removed. A tug will be shoved into a notch where her stern used to be and nobody will care about the ship or her history when she reemerges as a barge next spring.”

SOUTHDOWN CHALLENGER August 28, 1999.  Photo Richard Weiss © 1999.

SOUTHDOWN CHALLENGER August 28, 1999. Photo Richard Weiss © 1999.

Mr Weiss took these photographs from a friend’s boat on August 28, 1999, when the ship was named SOUTHDOWN CHALLENGER. They would often spend the day sailing up and down the St Clair river.  These pictures were taken mostly near St Clair with one of the buoy tender SUNDEW passing her near Marysville.

Special thanks to Richard Weiss, George Wharton and “Doug”.

(external site) See George Wharton’s:  Great Lakes Fleet Page Vessel Feature — St. Marys Challenger

Martin Cox

Martin Cox

MARTIN COX - Founder and publisher of MaritimeMatters, inspired by maritime culture and technology growing up in the port of Southampton. He works as a photographer in Los Angeles, and his works has been exhibited in LA, San Francisco, New York, London and Iceland.Martin is the co-writer of the book “Hollywood to Honolulu; the story of the Los Angeles Steamship Company” published by the Steam Ship Historical Society of America. The Los Angeles Maritime Museum has commissioned artworks and collected his photographs.
Martin Cox
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