Ray Thorsteinson was born in Red Deer, Alberta in 1936. In the early
forties, his family moved to Thorold, Ontario acquiring a house right
next to the Welland Canal. From it Ray could see the ships sail by so,
as a result, he started to develop an interest in shipping. At age 19,
he signed up in the Canadian merchant marine and worked as a deck hand
on various ships including the T-2 tanker Rincon Hills.|
In 1961, he joined the US Army in which he served three years notably in Germany. While he was stationed at Fort Lewis near Seattle, he met and then married Joyce who shared his life for the next 28 years. He then left the military and became a firefighter for the Seattle Fire Department. He retired in early 1991 with rank of captain after nearly 28 years of service.
Ray started photographing ships in the late fifties mostly during his deepsea trips. He became prolific in the seventies mainly in the Seattle-Vancouver areas with occasional trips to San Francisco and Los Angeles, California. Every summer he came back to Thorold with his wife and two sons to visit his family and to photograph ships along the Welland Canal.
From early on, he used a boat to get close to the ships in the Puget Sound area. He would also lash the boat on top of the cabin rigged to his pick up truck and launch it in the San Pedro channel or he would ride his bicycle across the Golden Gate Bridge to take breathtaking views of the ships which sailed in and out of San Fransico Bay.
He used his small craft repeatedly for some 20 years without mishap but then on April 30, 1991, the unthinkable happened. While photographing ships a mile off the Seattle waterfront, the winds picked up and Ray unexpectedly fell overboard and was never seen again. He had died in the "line of duty" while doing what he loved most as a hobby just three months after retirement.
Ray Thorsteinson (left) and Marc Piche (right) were photographed while they were in
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada on a shipwatching vacation during May of 1988
Thanks to Marc Piche this website will present an increasing number of Ray Thorsteinson's
pictures in the coming months and years. All of Ray's photographs will be listed here in this
tribute and they will also be included in the main archive lists.