Vessels in the Port of San Francisco

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Yankee Whalebacks

Thursday, August 27, 1891, Daily Californian, Bakersfield, Californian


The above is the name given by the British Pall Mall Budget to the remarkable new type of freight ships invented by Captain Alexander McDougall, of Superior, Wis.

Attention has been recently called to these vessels, by the successful passage of one of them across the Atlantic ocean. This whaleback steamer, the Charles W. Wetmore, sailed direct from Duluth, Minn., to Liverpool, carrying a cargo of 95,000 (Editor: Not sure of number -- difficult to read) bushels of grain.

One advantage of the whaleback is that it costs not nearly so much to build ns the ordinary vessel. The first one made cost only $45,000. But the great and overwhelming point in its favor is that with the same expenditure of steam power it carries twice as much freight as the old style ship. This has been demonstrated beyond question.

Captain McDougall was himself a sailing master on the lakes and knew every inch of his ground. He knew also what comparatively few persons do, that the freight carried across our great inland lakes exceeds in one year that conveyed by all the Atlantic steamers combined. He built his model to meet the requirements of the occasion, and now it will be adopted for all ocean freight carriers.

When all is said and done, however, it must still be remembered that the whaleback vessel is simply another modification of Ericsson's Monitor. The pattern reverses the ordinary shape of a ship, and is flat bottomed and round decked. The part above the water when the ship is loaded looks something like an Indian's moccasin. It is not meant that anybody shall promenade the decks of the whaleback. As in the case of the Monitor, the water in the fiercest storm washes over the deck and slips off. The part that can be damaged is far under water, safe from wind and wave.

Whalebacks.Under the Whaleback.There are two kinds of whaleback vessels, steam propellers and steel barges for towing. The barges look very much like a monitor, the wheelhouse appearing on top like a turret.

So rapidly are these vessels superseding the old ones that the company manufacturing them is preparing to launch a new one every week, fifty-two a year. When the whaleback vessel first appeared in the lake waters the seamen christened it the "pig," a name by which it is still known there. But undoubtedly it will be known in commerce as the whaleback, from its shape.

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Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; CDNC: California Digital Newspaper Collection; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; and Maritime Museums and Collections in Australia, China, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Wales, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, etc.

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