NEWS

Montrose shipwreck drew thousands to Windsor in 1962

07/31/2012 10:49 EDT | Updated 09/30/2012 05:12 EDT
Fifty years ago July 31, people in Windsor and Detroit woke up and a spectacular sight drew them to the Detroit River.

A massive British freighter called the M.V. Montrose was lying on its side near the Ambassador Bridge.

It had collided with a barge overnight, tearing a huge hole in its hull. A tug boat was moving the barge loaded with concrete.

Thousands of people flocked to Windsor's waterfront to take photos and gawk at the partially submerged ship. Traffic slowed and sometimes stopped on Riverside Drive West and the Ambassador Bridge so people could take a longer, better look at the wreck.

The Montrose had started its voyage in Portugal and was on its way to pick up grain in what is now Thunder Bay.

The captain of the ship tried to guide the vessel to the Windsor's shore but as water filled the front of the hull, the propeller rose out of the water and the ship could no longer move.

The 122-metre, 7,000-ton ship was new and cost $6-$8 million. It cost $750,000 to salvage ship, which stayed on its side in nine metres of water until October. It left Detroit on Nov. 9.

John Polascek, a maritime historian and the former curator of the Dossin Great Lakes Maritime Museum on Belle Isle, said the Montrose was only months old. It passed sea trials in March of 1962. And it passed through the St. Lawrence Seaway, which was only completed in 1959.

CBC reported in 1962 that 44 crew members were rescued. No one was injured. They were put up in a Detroit hotel.

It was also reported on July 31 that two men were later found inside the listing ship, allegedly trying to loot it.

At the time, the Ambassador Bridge allowed pedestrians to cross the bridge.

"They closed the bridge to pedestrians. Think about it, there was a number of people up there. It was a safety concern," said John Polascek, a maritime historian and the former curator of the Dossin Great Lakes Maritime Museum on Belle Isle.

Polascek said people were leaning over the guardrails to take better photos.

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