For Posterity's Sake
A Royal Canadian Navy Historical Project
Steam Tug STELLA MARIS
Stella Maris was built in Poplar, England in 1882 by Samuda Bios. The vessel was 124.5 feet (37.9 m) long, 23.6 feet (7.2 m) wide, and 12.2 feet (3.7 m) deep, and had a tonnage of 229. It was powered by steam. Formerly employed as an English gunboat and minesweeper, by 1917 it had been converted into a tugboat and purchased by Halifax Trading & Sealing Co, owned by James Augustus Farquhar. While under RCN charter, on 6 December 1917, Stella Maris, with Captain Horatio Harris Brannen and 23 others aboard, was towing two scows near mid-channel in the Narrows of Halifax Harbour leading into Bedford Basin. Shortly before the explosion, the tug narrowly avoided being hit by SS Imo, which then collided with Mont Blanc, a French munitions ship. The collision started a fire on Mont Blanc, forcing the crew to evacuate. The burning ship then began drifting towards Halifax's Pier 6 on the western shore. After a failed attempt to get close to the French ship, Stella Maris's crew were in the process of retrieving a ten-inch hawser from the hold to assist a party of volunteers from HMCS Niobe's steam pinnace in securing a line to Mont Blanc. They wanted to pull the French vessel away from the pier to prevent it from catching fire. Before this could be done, the explosion occurred. Stella Maris was severely damaged; 19 men were killed, including Captain Brannen. The tug was salvaged and rebuilt for service in the First World War.
Photos and Documents