Lake Superior Shipwrecks




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In this area of the WhimSea site, we list information about shipwrecks in Lake Superior. Much of this information is compiled from many sources.

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August 2009























August 1

  • Tom Boy (1880). She sprang a leak in heavy seas and foundered two miles offshore while trying to make Marquette Michigan. The crew just had time to cut away her yawl before she went down, and they were picked up by the steamer SELAH CHAMBERLAIN three hours later. Her skipper later said it had been his ninth shipwreck.

August 3

  • Samuel P. Ely (1869). Her anchors dragged in a 50 knot gale outside of Two Harbors, Minnesota. She drifted into the North side of the West breakwater, pounded, broke and sank. The crew was rescued the next morning by the tug ELLA STONE.

August 7

  • Roanoke (1894). Bound for Duluth from Port Huron, she caught fire in fine weather and burned to a total loss off 14-miles point, northeast of Ontonagon, Michigan. She sank in 202 fathoms of water. Her crew abandoned and were picked up by the passing steamer GEORGE SPENCER. The fire was attributed to the explosion of an engine room lamp.
  • James Gayley (1912). She collided with the steamer RENSSELAER in a dense fog, 35 miles east of Manitou Island Michigan and sank in sixteen minutes. Cool thinking on the part of both skippers is credited with saving the lives of all onboard.

August 8

  • City of Ashland (1887). Burned near Washburn Wisconsin. Two lives lost.

August 9

  • Oriole (1862). She was rammed broadside by the upbound widewheeler ILLINOIS and cut in two. ILLINOIS, in danger of sinking, made for Munising, while the ORIOLE was left behind to founder quickly. The accident happened in fog. ORIOLE had passengers aboard, three of whom were lost. Bound Marquette for Erie, Pennsylvania. The one survivor drifted 35 hours in a yawl, then was rescued by the steamer GLOBE. The ILLINOIS, which had proceeded on her upward voyage after ascertaining that she was not, in fact, sinking, was subject to much angry criticism.

August 10

  • Ontario (1889). Stranded near Rossport bound for Nipigon.

August 12

  • George W. Ford (1870). Struck a reef in a gale and sank quickly near Eagle Harbor, Michigan. Salvage was not attempted due to her age and condition. She had been portaged around the Soo in 1853.

August 15

  • Edward Gallagher (1873). She suffered a boiler explosion near Houghton Michigan while towing a log raft on the lake, killing one of those aboard and injuring another. She was reportedly "blown to fragments".

August 17

  • John M. Hutchinson (1905). She opened her seams and sank in heavy weather, going down in deep water off 14 mile point, east on Ontonogan. The crew were saved by her tow vessel, the steamer CALEDONIA. After the accident, members of her crew claimed she was overloaded. Part of the Corrigan Fleet, Cleveland. Built for Captain Frank Perew, she was once the wonder of the lakes.
  • Traveller (1865). Burned.

August 18

  • Sarah Smith (1908). Burned off of Minnesota Point. The fire started with a stove.

August 20

  • A. Booth (1886). Built in 1882, the A. Booth was wood propeller fishing tug owned by J.P. Smith. She foundered 20 miles off southwest Grand Marais, Minnesota. Detroit wrecker S. A. Murphy took the contract to raise her and finally brought her up in late July, 1887, with the operation in charge of Capt. Falcon. While she was on her way to Duluth in tow, a storm tore off some of her floatation barrels and she capsized and sank in 120 feet of water.
  • Superior City (1920). Downbound, she collided with the 580 foot steamer WILLIAM L. KING in a confusion of passing signals. SUPERIOR crossed KING's bow, was rammed amidships and sank very quickly. Cold water hitting her boiler caused an explosion which killed most of her crew, 29 of 33.

August 21

  • Kaministiquia (1910). Burned at her dock in Port Arthur, Ontario.

August 23

  • E.T. Carrington (1907). Sprung a leak and foundered fifteen miles from Duluth, inbound from Ashland, Wisconsin. Her crew was rescued by the steamer FREDERICK B. WELLS.

August 24

  • Rambler (1891). Burned to the waterline outside Port Arthur, Ontario. Determined to be arson, insurance never paid on claim.

August 25

  • City of the Straits (1896). Tied to Mercer's dock and destroyed by fire when the city of Ontonogan was burned to the ground. Owned by Penoyer Bros. of Port Huron. She received major repair in 1882 after heavy damage in a collsion off Harrisonvile, Michigan, Lake Huron, in September of that year. The name "City of the Straits" is the nickname of Detroit.
  • Dot (1883). She was lost from the tow of the steamer M.M. DRAKE in a gale several miles off Grand Marais Michigan. Leaking heavily, she was abandoned by her crew. The DRAKE picked them up and went on her way, leaving the vessel to founder in deep water. Owned by A.C. Smith, Detroit. As MERRIT, she had gone ashore with heavy damage six miles east of this accident's site, in 1881. Recovered, rebuilt and reclaimed by Americans she became a U.S. vessel after considerable legal trouble.

August 26

  • Comet (1875). Built in 1857 the Comet was sunk in a collision with Canadian propeller MANITOBA above Whitefish Point, ten lives lost.
  • Phineas S. Marsh (1896). She was driven in by a storm and struck bottom near Crisp Point, Michigan. Her crew took to the rigging as she sank, from whence they were rescued by the Lifesaving Service. MARSH broke up soon after and was declared a total loss August 30. Owned by J. Daville of Cleveland. Sunk in the straits in the fall of 1869 and again in 1886. Major repairs done in 1880 and 1883.

August 28

  • Chaska (1870). Wrecked in a northwest gale near Duluth, Minnesota.
  • Elgin (1906). Wrecked and abandoned near Grand Marais, Minnesota. In tow of the CROSBY, she was swamped and torn to pieces by a NE gale.
  • Nellie McGilvray (1882). She struck the end of the pier at Portange entrance to the canal, sunk and became a total loss. Blown up by dynamiting as a hazard on October 26, 1882.
  • Sunbeam (1863). Caught in a agale above Eagle Harbor while in company of the steamer, MICHIGAN, she broke up and foundered offshore between Ontonagon and Portage Lake. Her crew took to her small lifeboats and were all lost except the wheelsman who had forsaken a boat for a piece of floating wreckage. He sustained himself over thirty hours on the contents of a large bottle of port wine that had drifted near. Built with an unusual and unsuccesful Wittaker side propeller propulsion system, which was removed after its first year of service in favor of a standard sidewheel powerplant. Owned by the Goodrich Line.

August 29

  • Gunilda (1911). The Gunilda was heading towards Rossport on an extended cruise with William Harkness, a Standard Oil investor. Harkness refused the use of a pilot to navigate through the Schreiber Channel because he believed the fee to be too high. Gunilda went aground off Copper Island on McGarvey's Shoal. The tug JAMES WHALEN was dispatched to salvage her and under direct instructions from Harkness, (and against the salvers suggestions) they pulled her off the reef. She filled with water and sank directly to the bottom. The Gunilda is a popular dive, though a dangerous one, having claimed the lives of more then one diver.
  • Zillah (1926). She began to leak in a summer storm. She coated in a circle as the crew gathered what belongings they could, then rolled over and sank while steamer WILLIAM B. SCHILLER stood by to take off her people, with the help of the U.S. Coast Guard.

August 30

  • Cambridge (1873). Grounded in a gale and broke up in September.
  • Western Reserve (1892). She broke in two and sank in a relatively mild gale off Deer Park, Michigan. She was one of the first steel steamers built for use on the lakes and loss to hull failure caused a great furor and eventuallly new laws for the testing of steel for shipbuilding. Of her two boats, one capsized near shore and the other was never seen again. Captain Peter Minch (the owner) and most of his family was lost. USLS crewman on beach patrol ultmately recovered sixteen bodies.

August 31

  • E.D. Holton (1927). Destroyed by fire near Houghton Michigan.
  • Guiding Star (1892). Separated from the steamer TOLEDO near Big Bay Point she was stranded and wrecked. The crew used the wreckage to build a ladder to ascend the cliffs.

Updated: March 10, 2008

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