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A Voyage into History with the Cyprus

By William Forsythe


Part 7: “Cyprus…Cyprus….”

Life raft Mr. Pitz came to shore on.  (William Forsythe collection)
Saturday October 12, 1907 was only two hours old when the liferaft carrying Captain Huyck, First Mate Smith, Second Mate Pitz, and Wheelsman Thorne was within sight of the shoreline. They had traveled about 18 miles when the waves began repeatedly flipping the raft.

Four times the raft had been upended, and each time the four men had been able to retain their grasp. The raft flipped a fifth time, and it proved to be the men’s undoing. Only Second Mate Pitz was able to return to the raft. By this time he was within 300 feet (100 yards) of the beach, when his feet were beginning to feel the bottom. He was able to partially walk, crawl, and drag himself up to land. Mr. Pitz was rescued by United States Life-Saving Surfman No. 7, Ralph Ocha, of the Deer Park Life-Saving Station, who was on a routine patrol of the lakefront.

Ocha’s father, Frank, had been keeper at the Tawas, MI., life-saving station until 1896. His uncle, Albert Ocha, was the most celebrated member of the Great Lakes Life-Saving Service, and at that time he held the position of keeper at the Two Hearted River Station.

Surfman Ocha brought Pitz to the station, which was only ½ mile west of where the life raft had landed. After six hours trying to stay aboard a storm-tossed life raft, the only words an exhausted Mr. Pitz could utter was “Cyprus. Cyprus.” He figured at least if he died, the name of the ship would be known.

Once Mr. Pitz was settled at the station, he was cared for by Station Keeper James McGaw and his seven-man crew. They gave their guest “a stimulant and dry clothing furnished by the Ladies Aid Society.” A recovery party was sent to secure the life raft. A corner of the raft’s wooden frame had been crushed and the metal fittings had been bent and distorted from the storm’s strength. Wheelsman George Thorne was found lashed to the raft, but was drowned from the ordeal. First Mate John Smith was lying dead on the shoreline nearby. Captain Huyck had not been found. By the late evening of October 12, Pitz recovered enough to speak to the life-saving crew about his experience.

Deer Park Life-Saving Station. (William Forsythe collection)


Deer Park log entry of Mr. Pitz being found. (William Forsythe collection)


Two Hearted River log entry. (William Forsythe collection)













During this time, the Hemlock was upbound in ballast passing Detroit, MI at 4:15am. The Odanah had just arrived at the eastern end of Lake Erie to unload ore at Lackawanna, NY. The Calumet had departed

Two Harbors, MN after seeking shelter from the same Lake Superior storm that claimed the Cyprus. Crete would depart the American Shipbuilding yard at Lorain, OH. She began her maiden voyage to load ore at Superior, WI. Verona was fitting out at the same Lorain, OH shipyard. She had been launched one week ago.

Down the lakes, a Detroit newspaper printed a second story about Ms. Hazel Arnold. Fifty-five days ago, “she was full of enthusiasm and pride for the big steel vessel (Cyprus) over whose bow she had burst a bottle.” Today’s headline read “Wept on Hearing Doom of Boat She Christened.”


Article from Duluth Herald, Oct. 14, 1907 (Duluth Herald)


Western Union Telegram to Mrs. Huyck from Pickens Mather & Co. (William Forsythe collection)

Part 8: “The Newfangled Hatch Covers Were Quite Watertight”

Captain Stevenson, of the 410-foot-long F. B. Squire, and Captain Byers of the 462-foot-long Frank J. Hecker, both having just entered Duluth harbor, were surprised the storm they had just encountered on the lake could take down a new steel freighter.

Two days later, Monday, October 14th, a lone tugboat, S. C. Schenk, arrived at Sault Ste. Marie, MI, with survivor Charles Pitz and 18 of his deceased shipmates. The deaths of the crewmembers recovered from both the Deer Park and Two Hearted River Life Saving stations was caused by hypothermia. The captain and two firemen were still among the missing.

On Tuesday, October 15th, Captain Joseph Kidd returned to Duluth. Pickands Mather & Company hired the company Joseph Kidd & Son to survey the wreck site of the Cyprus. A quantity of wreckage, including interior fittings from her cabins, came ashore. Captain Kidd stated that “no tarps were furnished to the Cyprus, the newfangled hatch covers were considered quite watertight and there was nothing on many of the new boats (to) which a tarpaulin could be attached.”

Captain Kidd was a good man of which to ask this question, since he had patented a telescoping hatch system of his own just one year previously.

In 1847, he studied as an engineer and shipbuilder until he moved the Chester, PA., in 1877 to join the massive shipyard of John Roach and Sons. After nine years, with the assistance of Roach, he opened his own shipbuilding operation in Marcus Hook, PA.

In 1888, Alexander McDougall, a consummate inventor, hired Kidd as the superintendent of the American Steel Barge Company in Superior, Wis. He oversaw the construction of McDougall’s unique whaleback vessels. The personalities of McDougall and Kidd directly attributed to the shipyard running like a well-oiled machine. The blue-collar and white-collar staff worked effortlessly and employment turnover was rare.

Between 1894-1898, the machine shop foreman, Harry Brousseau (see Part 4) was a direct subordinate to Captain Kidd.

In 1898, Captain Kidd left the shipyard to open Joseph Kidd and Son, a marine engineering, consulting and survey service. As a token of the shipyard’s respect for Captain Kidd, the workers pooled together to give him a gold watch and fob and a complete set of office furniture for his new business.

On December 13, 1905, Captain Joseph Kidd filed Patent No. 291582, “Hatch-Cover for Ships.” It’s likely that Captain Kidd had familiarized himself with the Harry Brousseau-style telescoping hatches from 1903 during his seven years in the marine consulting business. In Captain Kidd’s patent it states that it has “improvements in hatch covers for ships, particularly those of telescoping form.” Captain Kidd wasn’t surprised at the Cyprus’ lack of tarps. The captain’s own patent, adopted October 9, 1906, said it was to “provide a hatch which is practically water-tight or a nearly so as possible when in place.” Captain Kidd’s patent did much to simplify the design and operation of telescoping hatch covers.

One improvement with Captain Kidd’s design was a higher hatch coaming. Mr. Brousseau’s patented hatch coaming height on the Cyprus looked to be only 6” high. Captain Kidd’s patented hatch coaming was approximately 9” to 12” tall. This allowed for the use of Mulholland hatch clamps and tarps (see Part 14).

Another improvement with Captain Kidd’s telescoping hatch design was the simplicity of opening and closing the 10 telescoping leaves per hatch. A pair of lugs were attached to the inner edge of the inboard hatch leaf. The captain’s patented pulley and tripod fairlead system was later revised on other ships, but still allowed a wire rope bridle to be clipped over the lugs, and a deck winch was used to operate the hatches. The under-slung link chains on the Brousseau-patented hatch leaves was simplified with the use of tabs welded to the hatch leaves to allow one leaf to engage the other to pull the leaves opened and closed.

On November 15, 1911, after a year-long battle with heart disease, Captain Joseph Kidd died from a heart attack in Duluth, MN. Of all his inventions, surveying and consulting jobs, he was still most noted for his “patent hatch covers”. His recent watertight hatch covers are a part of and in daily use on the new cargo steel steamers William P. Snyder, Frank C. Ball and Thomas F. Cole among others.

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