Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Henry Miller Shreve, the steamer & flat boat and a modern log jam

Steamer & flat boat
Originally uploaded by trudeau
In the beginning was the flat boat. Men wielding poles gave it direction; it used the current for most of its conveyance. Sides of salted bacon, barrels of molasses and stacks of animal pelts were among the products of the region which could be shipped south by flat boat.
But no one would get rich on the trade engendered by flat boats.

The development of this region was first spurred by steam boats.

Henry Miller Shreve was the developer of the shape and style of the Mississippi River Steamboat, according to author and professor Gary Joiner.

His design featured -
- a wide, shallow draft hull -
- 2 decks
- boiler on main deck
- improved engine

The steamboat brought wealth to the Red River valley through increased trade. Imagine giant stacks of cotton bales on the front and rear decks of a steam boat.

Shreve also enabled river traffic by clearing the Red of a log jam called the Great Raft. By one account the obstructions in the channel stretched from Shreveport to Baton Rouge.

He developed a steam-powered work craft called a Snag Boat to fully leverage the clearing of the river of the masses of heavy trees and debris. The Snag Boat featured a split front hull topped with an armature, or frame, that enabled the men to better use a winch and pulley to extract heavy trees from the river sediment.

Cave-ins of dirt and trees were the main elements of the log jam. The jam was so thick that islands developed in the main channel.

Today Shreveport faces a transportation problem somewhat similar to that of the Great Raft. It is the air access problem due to the oddly high cost of flying in or out of Shreveport Regional Airport.

We need a visionary in the mold of Henry Shreve to clear the obstructions in local air traffic. If we can find a way to lower ticket prices to a competitive level, this region will surely develop more wealth and comfort.