BY TORY TRUNRUD
IN RECENT news, a ship dubbed The Blueberry Boat has been rising from the ocean depths off Cape Cod in Maine.
No, it’s not a ghost ship and exactly why it’s rising isn’t exactly known; it’s probably due to shifting currents.
The boat is actually an unlucky ship that was built at the Canadian Car and Foundry Company (now Bombardier) in Fort William almost a century ago.
Officially name the Lutzen, this 43.6-metre, 339-ton vessel was part of an order for a dozen trawlers/minesweepers placed with an American shipbuilding company by the French government during the First World War.
The company, not having the spare capacity to produce the ships, sub-contracted the order Canadian Car, which was, at the time, desperately in need of work to keep its Lakehead plant open.
The order was announced in February 1918 and the company, which had never produced ships before and didn’t even have a building large enough to do the job - it was also nearly a half kilometer away from the nearest water - promised delivery within a mere eight months.
Amazingly, the company met its deadline. The Lutzen was launched in October 1918, the last of the minesweepers to be come out of the plant. By the time it was completed and outfitted, however, the war was wrapping up.
Many will be aware that two of her sister ships, the Cerisoles and Inkerman, were lost somewhere on Lake Superior, on their maiden voyage, but Lutzen survived.
Several of her sister ships went on to illustrious careers, such as the Bautzen, which was converted into a yacht (the Rowena) and later carried U.S. navy planes for a polar expedition; she was also used to survey the hazardous Superior Shoals in 1941.
Another minesweeper, the Sebastopol, was notorious for having been seized off Newfoundland with a cargo of illegal liquor in the era of prohibition.
After the war, Lutzen was sold to a Newfoundland firm, Northeastern Steamships Ltd. and converted to a freighter.
She made regular stops all along the eastern seaboard of Canada and the U.S. for many years until, on Feb. 2, 1939, she ran aground in a dense fog while navigating around the dangerous shoals off the coast of Orleans, Mass., a 50-mile stretch of sea and sandbars known as “the ocean graveyard,” a stretch that has claimed over 1,000 ships to date.
Unable to re-float the vessel, the crew abandoned ship - losing one man in the process.
Lutzen was carrying a cargo of fish and 200 tons of frozen blueberries from St. John, N.B., to New York City at the time. Over the next few days, local labourers were able to remove perhaps half of the blueberries before the ship tipped over and was abandoned.
What exactly happened to the salvaged fruit is not recorded but one historian has speculated that “many of the berries ended up in Outer Cape blueberry pies.”
Just how high the Lutzen will rise is open to speculation - she currently sits 6 metres of water, only 123 metres off shore.
The Orleans Historical Society is currently investigating the Lutzen, with the assistance of marine surveyors and the Massachusetts Board of Underwater Archaeological Resources.
Looking Back is written weekly by one of various writers for the Thunder Bay Museum. For further information visit the museum at 425 Donald St. E., or view its website at www.thunderbaymuseum.com.