A century-old scow has been blown close to the edge of Niagara Falls by a powerful storm, with the rusted piece of history closer to dropping down and, potentially, disappearing.
The legendary iron scow, which has been wedged in the upper Niagara River for 101 years, was pushed about 50 metres northwest by a strong river current and high winds on Oct. 31, closer to the top of Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side. Before it moved, it sat about 600 metres from the edge of the Falls, Niagara Parks chief executive officer David Adames said.
The dumping scow had been in the same place since it broke loose from its towing tug on Aug. 6, 1918 – leading to the dramatic rescue of two men on board.
The boat has been rusting over a number of years and was best viewed from the Canadian side of the Falls. It was turned over during the storm, with the bottom now facing upward.
“It’s always been an important part of Niagara Falls history," Mr. Adames said.
“I think it’s going to rest there for the foreseeable future, however, there is a risk that again with the river current and more wind, it could move again and it could go to the Falls.”
Mr. Adames said officials are deciding how to monitor the scow, possibly by adding cameras on a nearby decommissioned hydroelectric power plant.
In the event the barge does go over the 51-metre Falls, there are two possible scenarios, Mr. Adames said. It could get stuck in the hidden rock formations below the waterfalls or it could continue down the river, where it would be recovered and removed so it doesn’t pose safety concerns.
In any case, the scow would be gone.
The barge ended up stuck in the river after it broke free from its towing tug and headed toward the Falls in the summer of 1918. The two men aboard, Gustav Lofberg and James Harris, opened the bottom dumping doors and grounded the boat on the rocks. But they were stranded.
They were rescued with the help of authorities along with recently returned First World War veteran William (Red) Hill Sr., who helped to untie a rescue rope that had become tangled.
Mr. Hill was known as one of Niagara’s most knowledgeable rivermen and he suffered respiratory problems after having been wounded and gassed in France during the war, his great-grandson Kip Finn said.
“When he was rescuing the guys on the scow, he was coughing a lot, and one of the guys yelled out to him and asked him if he was sick. And he said, ‘No, just picked up something while I was overseas,'" Mr. Finn said.
Hill later died as a result of his illness. His son, Red Hill Jr., died at Niagara Falls after he unsuccessfully tried to go down the waterfall in 1951 in an inner-tube barrel, in an attempt to raise money for a monument in his father’s name, Mr. Finn said.
Now, Mr. Finn has started an online petition to build a statue dedicated to his great-grandfather, so that when the scow disappears, Red Hill Sr.'s name lives on.
"We have a personal attachment to that thing and it will be sad when it’s gone," he said.
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