SS Kyle in Harbour Grace falling apart, no longer safe

The shipwreck of the SS Kyle is running out of time, and residents of Harbour Grace are calling on the provincial government to help salvage it.

The crumbling Kyle

8 years ago
Duration 1:54
The CBC's Azzo Rezori talks to Habour Grace mayor Terry Barnes about the SS Kyle.

The shipwreck of the SS Kyle is running out of time, and residents of Harbour Grace are calling on the provincial government to help salvage it.

The SS Kyle in Harbour Grace is deteriorating and is no longer safe to go near. (Paul and Kathy Short)

The 102 year-old ship has been grounded in Harbour Grace since 1967 and has been the town's biggest tourist attraction ever since.

However, the Kyle is rusting and falling apart and is now no longer safe to go near.

"Flying over it I couldn't believe how bad it actually was, because from shore it [does not] look too bad," said Paul Short, who used a drone to record a video of the legendary shipwreck. 

In tribute to the ship, Short and his wife Kathy recently recorded a bird's eye view of the vessel, which is the subject of the Ted Russell's recitation The Smokeroom on the Kyle

Paul Short and his wife Kathy wanted to pay tribute to the Kyle, so they captured footage of it using their drone. (CBC)

Short said he was shocked by what he saw.

"The deck is gone, the wheelhouse is caved in. I looked down in the holes and it's full of water," he said.

"You know, over the years you're driving back and forth to Harbour Grace and you're seeing this poor ship just rusting away, and you think, it kind of deserved a better ending."

Owned by province

The Newfoundland and Labrador government owns the Kyle. The last time money was spent on the ship was 18 years ago, when it got a new coat of paint for the Cabot 500 celebrations.

However, Harbour Grace's town council wants the government to start taking action to preserve what's left.

"What we're afraid of is that people going around, pieces are starting to fall in. Up on the boat itself you got to be very careful where you're walking to because you could end up going down through," said Mayor Terry Barnes.

"Paint it up, and maybe it will last for another 20 years, but the way it's going now, no, it's deteriorating every day.

The SS Kyle on its maiden voyage to Labrador in 1913.

"If they got no plan to do anything, eventually we want to see some signage on it to keep people away from it."

Like many people from Conception Bay North, Short has family connections to the Kyle. He remembers hearing stories from his uncles and aunts about how they sailed on it.

Since posting his video on YouTube, Short has heard from many others.

"We had one guy email us, and he said he was a skipper, well, his father was a skipper on the Kyle, and he's a captain somewhere in the States, and he said when he saw the actual video he cried," said Short.

Smokeroom on the Kyle

Kelly Russell, the son of Ted Russell, performs his father's best-known recitation in this video from 2013, marking the vessel's 100th anniversary.