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Historic ship sails into Maritime Heritage Centre

Brian Kyle, volunteer at the Maritime Heritage Centre, shows off a display of the MV Besseggen, a ship that was used at the Campbell River mill to transport paper to the United States. - Kristen Douglas/The Mirror
Brian Kyle, volunteer at the Maritime Heritage Centre, shows off a display of the MV Besseggen, a ship that was used at the Campbell River mill to transport paper to the United States.
— image credit: Kristen Douglas/The Mirror

Maritime Heritage Centre volunteer Brian Kyle was leading a group tour through the maritime museum when he met a former shipbuilder who would restore a piece of Campbell River history to its rightful place.

Clyde Jacobs had been given a model of the MV Besseggen, a ship used to transport paper from the mill, but he wasn’t too pleased with where it had ended up.

With nowhere to put the model, Jacobs gave it to the Vancouver Maritime Museum where it subsequently wound up in the museum’s warehouse.

At the same time, Jacobs and his wife took a vacation to Campbell River and while touring the Maritime Heritage Centre Jacobs told Kyle he had a ship that would be perfect for the Heritage Centre.

So staff at the Maritime Heritage Centre approached the Vancouver Museum about the ship.

“We said we’d like to borrow it – it has a lot of memories up here,” Kyle said. “The boat made over 500 trips here and back.”

The ship was built in 1962 for Norsk-Pacific, a subsidiary of Crown Zellerbach to pick up paper from the mill in Campbell River and transport it to the United States. It was in service until 1983.

The ship was unique at the time because of its specialized cranes, which were worked on by Jacobs.

“Three Munck industrial cranes were adapted to run up and down on tracks on the side of the boat,” Kyle said. “The arm of the crane extends out with a vacuum lift on it.”

Kyle said the cranes could pick up eight, two-tonne rolls of paper at a time. The paper was then dropped down onto the ship and stored for delivery.

The MV Besseggen and its cranes ensured the paper arrived to market in good condition.

“The paper had to be delivered in perfect condition. They needed a way rather than putting it in nets and lifting it in the booms,” Kyle said. “A lot of this paper went to the LA Times.”

Kyle said the ship has a lot of history for former Campbell River mill workers who spent time in the ship yard.

So when Jacobs mentioned his model of the ship was sitting in storage in Vancouver, Kyle jumped at the chance to bring it to Campbell River.

The Vancouver Maritime Museum agreed to loan out the ship and Kyle and another volunteer went to pick up the model.

“They treated it like it was the Hope Diamond and they had bureaucrats coming out their ears down there,” Kyle said. “They wrapped it up like it was egg shells.”

The model was set up at the Heritage Centre a few months ago and it was supposed to go back to Vancouver this month.

But about a month ago, the Museum informed the Maritime Heritage Centre that it could keep the model permanently.

“It’s a pretty good model,” Kyle said of the display.

It’s also captured attention across the province.

The Maritime Heritage Centre’s model of the MV Besseggen is featured in the June 2014 edition of Western Mariner magazine, which bills itself as the Magazine of the Coast and reaches 20,000 readers each month.

The model ship can be viewed at the Maritime Heritage Centre, Monday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

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