1965: CEDARVILLE and TOPDALSFJORD collided in fog in the Straits of Mackinac. Ten lives were lost when the former, a self-unloader in the Bradley fleet, sank. The latter, a Norwegian freighter, had been a Seaway trader since 1960. Later, on May 11, 1984, as d) JIN XIAN QUAN, it sank the SEA CARRIER, another former Seaway trader as SVANEFJELL, in the Strait of Formosa off Taishan Island. TOPDALSFJORD was last noted as e) CHANGHI and was deleted from Lloyd’s Register in 2005
Depth: 40′ to 110′
Dimensions: 604′ x 60′ x 32′
Cargo: Open-hearth limestone
Cause of Sinking: Collision (in fog) with M.V. Topdalsfjord
Built: 1927, River Rouge MI by Great Lakes Engineering
Date Lost: May 7, 1965
Propulsion: Triple-expansion steam engine, 2200 hp
Skill Level: Intermediate to Advanced
Location: N45° 47.235′ W085° 40.248′
The Cedarville was launched in 1927 at River Rouge MI as the A.F. Harvey, a straight-deck bulk carrier for the Pittsburg Steamship Company (US Steel). She was 604 ft. long (588 ft keel) with a triple expansion steam engine. The vessel was transferred to the Michigan Limestone Division (Bradley Transportation Line) and converted to a self-unloader at Defoe Shipyard in Bay City MI over the winter of 1957-58.
In the early morning of May 7, 1965, the Cedarville departed Port Calcite, near Rogers City, headed to Gary, IN with 14,411 tons of limestone with a crew of 35. As they neared the Straits of Mackinac, the fog thickened. Due to a lack of communication, the Norwegian vessel Topdalsfjord collided with the Cedarville on her port side cutting a deep gash in her side between the seventh and eight hatch.
After briefly dropping anchor to consider the situation, the Cedarville’s Captain attempted to beach the vessel near Mackinaw City. While still several miles offshore, at 10:25 am the Cedarville suddenly rolled over to starboard and sank in 105 feet of water about 3.5 Miles SE of the Mackinac Bridge south tower. Twenty-five crewmen were recovered alive from the cold lake, along with two others that succumbed due to exposure, and eight others went down with the ship. All but one of the missing crewmen have been recovered, with one still listed as missing.
The Cedarville is a favorite site in the Straits of Mackinac. She is intact and lies on her starboard side, about 45 degrees from being upside down. Her massive size and inverted orientation makes for an interesting, but sometimes confusing dive. The cabins are visible along with lots of deck equipment and the fatal gash. Caution is warranted given her size, depth, upside down orientation and variable visibility. Many hazards are present and penetration should not attempted without proper training, experience, planning and equipment. Due to the orientation of the vessel to the currents, the visibility is often reduced to 35 ft or less but the ship still presents a great diving opportunity.