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Hikawa Maru on Fraser River, 1939

August 20, 2015

The Hikawa Maru  was the largest ship ever to pass under the Pattullo Bridge and through the swing span of the New Westminster Bridge.  Captain Robert C Menten, the veteran Fraser River mariner and pilot,  photographed the vessel as she glided up the river past Brownsville in February 1939.

Hikawa Maru passes under Pattullo Bridge 1939-02-25

M.S. Hikawa Maru (tonnage, 6788 net, 11621 gross), one of the crack combination passenger-freighter vessels of the Nippon Yusen Kaisha Line making regular sailings from the Port of New Westminster, about to pass under the new Pattullo high level bridge. To date, this is the largest vessel to proceed under this bridge, as well as the swing-span of the old Westminster Bridge.

Hikawa Maru loading timbers at Canadian Western Lumber - 1939The ship passed the bridges on a “high slack” tide, her 140-foot masts clearing the span of the Pattullo by six feet.

She also safely cleared the electric lines on the Fraser River Bridge, which are raised on very high poles, but took out the lower-rigged telephone wire.  These cables were merely unplugged and were quickly reconnected.

The ship loaded large-dimension timbers at the Canadian Western Lumber Company, Fraser Mills.

The ship’s departure on February 27th was noticed by the Columbian newspaper:

“Big Japanese Freight Again Clears Bridge — The Japanese luxury liner M.V. Hikawa Maru, largest vessel to load at Fraser Mills, sailed through the old Westminster bridge and under the Pattullo bridge outbound at 10:30 a.m. today after loading 1,100,000 feet of lumber.

She drew 25 feet two inches and negotiated the channel easily.

She took most of the lumber forward, which was riding high, and the load added only a few inches to her final draft.”

From 1930 the Hikawa Maru ran regularly between Yokohama, Vancouver and Seattle.  The ship has an interesting history. Decommissioned in 1960, the  NYK Hikawamaru  is now a floating museum in Yokohama.


Captain Menten (1881-1944), the photographer, once applied to be Master of the ferry Surrey, but didn’t get it. He started his career on the Harrison-Chilliwack ferry Minto in 1901, in 1910 assumed command of the Paystreak, and took charge of the snag boat Samson in 1912. The latter part of his career,  20 years, was spent with the New Westminster Pilotage Authority, which covered the area from Douglas Island to the mouth of Fraser River.  See “Dr Maude L. and Captain Robert C Menten: Well-known siblings from Harrison River,” Chilliwack Progress 2002-06-30.

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