Wednesday 8 May 2013

The museum's CSS Acadia turned 100 today

May 8th is the 100th anniversary of the launch of CSS Acadia, the largest artifact at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. This ship charted most of Canada's east coast and vast stretches of the Canadian Arctic. She  also served the Canadian Navy in both world wars and survived the Halifax Explosion. During her long career she performed many shipwreck and several plane crash rescues as well as saving 600 people from Newfoundland forest fires in 1960. Retired in 1968, she was preserved as a museum ship, first at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography and, since 1982, at our museum. You can learn more about her career on the Museum's Acadia web page: CSS Acadia Infosheet

Acadia started her long career 100 years ago with a design by federal government naval architect R.L. Newman. She was the first Canadian vessel built for northern research. Acadia was built at the Swan Hunter and Wigham Richardson shipyard at Wallsend in Newcastle, England. Swan Hunter was, at that time, the largest shipyard in the world. Her hull was launched on May 8, 1913 with Mr. Newman in attendance representing Canada. After fitting out and sea trials, she arrived in Halifax on July 8, 1913 after a 12 day delivery voyage. A few weeks later, she began an epic maiden expedition to Hudsons Bay.

Acadia Past and Present:
1) Acadia in 2002, photographed by Gerry Lunn, Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.
2) Acadia on her trial voyage in 1913, MMA MP28.36.33, courtesy Vancouver Maritime Museum

In addition to her many adventures and achievements, Acadia is one of the best preserved Edwardian steamships in the world. Her hand-fired coal triple expansion engines and accommodation has remained virtually unchanged since 1913. Her lifeboat davits are the same model as those on Titanic. To board Acadia is to walk into a time machine. As you can see from the two images mirrored above, the only noticeable change in a century was the enlarged bridge, added in 1955.

We are planning a variety of events to explore Acadia's legacy this year and began with a birthday gathering at the museum this morning. With us was museum volunteer Rod Desborough who worked aboard Acadia in 1960 and 1962. Rod commented on Acadia's long career, "The Acadia's endurance is as a result of a special bond between steel and the men who designed and built her and served aboard ... in the words of Chief Officer Dingee in 1983, 'she absorbed us into her soul.' "

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