A Look Back: SS South American, Queen of the Great Lakes

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The Queen of the Inland Seas, the S.S. South American, was the last of the historic Great Lakes cruise liners. However, prior to the widespread use of jet travel, the Great Lakes cruise was extremely popular. The SS American had a scheduled passenger service from Buffalo to Cleveland and Detroit during peak season, (June to Labour Day) passing through Sarnia on her route to Mackinac Island and other Lakehead ports.

The Great Lakes Engineering Works in Ecorse, Michigan, built the Great Lakes steamship South American. It was built for the Chicago, Duluth, and Georgian Bay Transit Company in 1913/14. The ship was launched on February 21, 1914, and it was the younger of two near-sister ships, with the North American being the older.

SS South American
Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia

The South American was 314 feet (96 meters) long, with a beam of 47 feet (14 meters), and a draft of 18 feet (5.5 m). She had a quadruple-expansion steam engine with 2,200 horsepower and three coal-burning Scotch marine boilers.

The South American diverged from her typical schedule in 1967 to offer visits to the 1967 Montreal World’s Fair. She was decommissioned from regular passenger service at the end of that season and sold to Seafarers International Union in Piney Point, Maryland, as a replacement for the North American, which sank while in tow there a year before.

She was moved to Camden, New Jersey, after failing a Coast Guard inspection, where she deteriorated before being demolished in Baltimore in 1992.

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Kathy is the owner of Kirk Scuba Gear, a passionate Scuba Diver, Ocean Advocate and Managing Editor of The Scuba News Canada

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