Bryce Gibson was a fellow passenger of your Editor’s aboard Crown Princess recently and was kind
enough to share a rather surreal incident that happened during a 1955 crossing of Cunard’s Scythia from
Southampton to Montreal. A view of the ship and the crossing’s log extract appear on the opposite page.)
by Bryce Gibson
I enclose a copy of the Scythia ship postcard and the extract of the captain’s log. Also, a not very
good photograph of the ship docked in Quebec City and the people watching divers examining damage to
the bow of the ship (See below).
As you will see from the ship’s log, we passed Father Point at the entrance to the St. Lawrence
River and entered Canadian waters on 30 April, 1955. As I recall, the sea was calm and during the following night, as we proceeded upriver toward Quebec at a leisurely speed, mist developed and visibility was quite poor at dawn the next morning.
We went down for breakfast and whilst enjoying the meal, there was a sudden crash and some
items of crockery fell over; but apart from that, there were no announcements and silence prevailed. I went out on deck on the starboard side and was greatly surprised to see that we were firmly wedged into a small grey freighter, apparently well-kept and smartly painted and probably quite new. There were no sounds, no shouting or apparent communication, just total silence and a lack of activity.
There were no announcements on Scythia’s public address system as I recall and we certainly
were not sent to boat stations, so obviously it was not thought we were in any danger. However, after a time, we did see some members of the freighter’s crew sitting in a lifeboat that had been swung out from their port side. Visibility at the time was only about 75 yards or so but I do not recall hearing Scythia’s whistle prior to the collision. The freighter had apparently taken on cargo at a port on the Saguenay River and had come straight out of the river and then straight across our bows. It is hard to understand why this should have happened as one would assume that even at that time, both ships would have had some form of radar.
Silence and inaction continued for some time, perhaps an hour or so, and then Scythia reversed out
of the freighter and continued on her way. The freighter disappeared in the fog behind us. Later, ashore in Quebec City, we heard that the freighter had eventually sunk.
An amusing incident occurred in the Customs Inspection shed. We followed a male Italian
immigrant whose only baggage appeared to be a large wicker basket. The Inspector asked him to open it and found that it contained nothing but dozens of Scythia dinner rolls. Apparently, he did not intend to starve during his first days in Canada and had been collecting them throughout the crossing.
(Our thanks to Mr. Bryce for his tale about that minor and largely ignored collision.)