The American shipbuilding Company in Calumet River moved the 634-foot, largest ore ship Marine Angel through bridges spanning the Chicago River and into Lake Michigan, where the ship underwent a preliminary refit. The Marine Angel was originally built in 1945 as a cargo ship for the U.S. Navy. Upon being acquired by Marine Transport Lines in 1953, however, it underwent significant changes. Afterward, the ship was converted into a bulk carrier for commercial purposes.
From the Gulf of Mexico, the Marine Angel became the longest ship to reach Lake Michigan in one piece as it was converted into an ocean-going freighter during World War II. After crossing the Mississippi, the vessel navigated the locks on the Illinois and Des Planes Rivers to Lockport, where it entered the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, which connects to the Chicago River.
When the conversion at Manitowoc, Wis., is completed, the Marine Angel, owned by the Mckee Transportation Company of Cleveland, will join the ore fleet. A representative of the Dunham Towing and Wrecking Company, whose tugs have steered all the big ships through the Chicago River flurring for the past two years, described the Marine Angel job as a routine tow. By becoming the largest vessel ever to travel the Mississippi River and Illinois Waterway, the Marine Angel achieved a remarkable feat in 1953.
Towboats of the Federal Barge Lines at Lockport moved the ship 28 miles or so to Lake Michigan in 58 hours with Dunham tugs. Several more converted deep-water freighters will be brought up the river later this year. There are 72 feet of width on the Marine Angel, and it has a steam turbine power plant. Only about seven inches of clearance on either side kept it from scraping the river banks at Van Buren Street. The vessel’s passage through Chicago brought back memories for Lawrence Krzedict of Chicago, who served as the Marine Angel’s second engineer for two and a half years during and after the war.
During his time in the Merchant Marine, Mr. Krzedict said the ship typically carried 250 Army troops and also had a naval hospital with 100 beds and corpsmen, nurses, and doctors. During the war, most runs went from East Coast ports to Bombay.
According to Mr. Krzedict, the ship carried returning missionaries bound for Burma to Calcutta, and troops from India to San Francisco after the war. The Chicagoan recalled, “The Angel has good maneuverability. She can go from full ahead to full astern in a matter of seconds.”
Marine Angel’s 1953 voyage up the Mississippi River and Illinois Waterway left a lasting mark on the United States transportation and commerce history. Additionally, it demonstrated the immense possibilities for large-scale commercial shipping on inland waterways. Many people were captivated by its new record, which was proudly set. Over a distance of over 1,000 miles, the ship transported wheat from the Gulf of Mexico to the Great Lakes region. In addition to demonstrating the economic potential of the newly improved waterway, this voyage demonstrated its environmental benefits as well.