the Noronic disaster of 1949

Noronic Fire Toronto 1949

Toronto. In 1913, the CSL commissioned a new passenger ship, the SS Noronic. The ship was built in Port Arthur, Ontario (now Thunder Bay) at the lakehead (western shore of Lake Superior in Canada). On a fateful day in September 1949, the ship embarked from Detroit, MI on a seven day pleasure cruise of Lake Ontario. The ship docked at pier 9 in Toronto the evening of the 16th. In the early hours 0f September 17th, 1949, smoke from a fire on board was spotted by a passenger and the alarm raised.

Over 100 passengers died that terrible night. Estimates range from 118 to 139 deaths – the number never determined with any precision. One of the first photographers on the scene was Nelson Quarrington of the Toronto Telegram.  His photograph made the LIFE magazine’s September 26, 1949 issue – on the newsstands about a week later. The Noronic never sailed again – or left city under its own steam.

My thanks to George Dunbar who reminded me of this disaster that shook our city when I was a chid of 12. We always bought the Telegram in those days so the disaster story and pictures arrived at our home promptly that Saturday.

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