Halloween Storm Dislodges 101-Year-Old Sunken Barge

A Halloween storm has dislodged a sunken iron scow barge that had been lodged in rapids above Niagara Falls for 101 years.

According to the Niagara Parks website, on August 6, 1918, a dumping scow broke loose from its towing tug about 1.6 kilometers upriver with 51-year-old crewman Gustav F. Lofberg and 53-year-old James H. Harris aboard.

To save themselves, the men opened the bottom dumping doors and the scow grounded in the shallow rapids only 600 meters from the brink of Horseshoe Falls.

With the cooperation of the Niagara Parks Police, the Niagara Falls Fire and Police departments, the U.S. Coast Guard and recently returned WWI veteran William ‘Red’ Hill Sr., the two men were successfully rescued the next day by breeches buoy, a canvas sling suspended on a line shot out from the roof of the adjacent power house. At one point, a tangle in the ropes caused the breeches buoy to stop, prompting Hill to crawl out to untangle it, guided by a searchlight. The men were finally removed safely to the roof of the powerhouse.

Salvage was not considered feasible in the raging rapids, so the barge remained lodged in its rocky perch for more than a century. But the October 31 storm was enough to move it closer to the falls on the Canadian side. A video produced by Niagara Parks Commission on quotes an official saying the barge appears to have “flipped on its side and spun around.” It has moved downstream about 164 feet.

Parks official are monitoring the barge in its new location. Niagara Parks CEO David Adames told the Canadian Broadcasting Company, “It looks secure at the moment; however, if there’s severe weather that comes along, it may shift it some more.”

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