Will This Century-Old Ship Go Over Niagara Falls?

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Since Aug. 6, 1918, a flat-bottomed boat known as the iron scow has been part of the landscape of Niagara Falls, stuck just 600 yards from Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side.

But recent severe weather (on Halloween no less) created a powerful current that dislodged the grounded boat and sent it 150 feet closer to the falls.

"It appears to have flipped on its side and spun around," said Jim Hill, Niagara Parks senior manager of heritage. "And what we think has happened now is that it has turned and twisted in the very heavy current flow of the river and is stuck where it is now. It could be stuck there for days, or it could be stuck there for years."

Hill noted that the ship had been rusting and deteriorating at a more rapid pace in recent years.

Fearing that the boat's eventual tumble down the falls will happen sooner rather than later, many local historians are making sure its history is properly recorded and explained.

How it ended up there

The dumping scow, which was being used for a dredging operation, broke loose from its towing tug in 1918 and began to flow towards the falls. The two men on board, 51-year-old Gustav Lofberg and 53-year-old James Harris, grounded the scow by opening its dumping doors so its lower compartments would flood.

The vessel slowed down enough to catch some rocks. The move saved the men from going over the falls, but Lofberg and Harris would end up waiting a long time to be rescued from the violent rapids.

Rescuers shot a line from the nearby powerhouse out to the stranded men. They attached a canvas sling to a pulley and sent it out on the line to the boat.

The sling stopped halfway due to the ropes getting tangled. William Hill Sr., a local hero who had returned from the first World War, crawled out to untangle the line in the dark. He even had to do it a second time later in the rescue process.

Lofberg and Harris were finally rescued and were pulled back to the roof of the powerhouse at roughly 8:50 a.m. the next day.

The daring rescue and the interesting history behind the scow explains why people are hopeful that it can hold on to those rocks for many more years to come.