On 26 August 1875, COMET (propeller passenger/package freight, 181 foot, 744 tons, built in 1857, at Cleveland, Ohio) was carrying ore and pig iron in Lake Superior on a foggy night. While trying to pass the Beatty Line steamer MANITOBA, 7 miles SE of Whitefish Point, signals were misunderstood and COMET veered into the path of MANITOBA. COMET was rammed amidships and sank in ten minutes. 11 of the 21 aboard lost their lives. This wasn’t the first such accident for COMET. In October 1869, she suffered a similar mishap with the propeller HUNTER and that time both vessels sank.
Comet lies in 230 feet (70 m) of water at Whitefish Bay of Lake Superior. Scuba diving to the wrecksite requires advanced technical diving skills. Great Lakes diver Steve Harrington reported that “divers will find much of the hull intact with twin standing arches.” The wreck is protected for future generations by the Whitefish Point Underwater Preserve as part of an underwater museum.in
The steamer MANITOBA, of the Beatty Line collided with the propeller COMET Thursday evening at 8:40, above Whitefish Point, Lake Superior and sunk her instantly. Ten were lost and sixteen saved. The MANITOBA returned to the Soo. The COMET’s cargo was pig iron, silver ore and 50 sacks of wool.
Port Huron Daily Times
Saturday, August 28, 1875
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COLLISION ON LAKE SUPERIOR. — Detroit, Aug. 27. — The steamer MANITOBA came in collision with the propeller COMET about White Fish Point, Lake Superior on Thursday night, and sank her almost instantly. Eleven lives were lost, and ten persons saved, including the Captain and First Mate of the COMET. No one was injured on the MANITOBA, and she took the survivors of the COMET to the Sauly.
Tuesday, August 31, 1875
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The loss of the steamer COMET, off White Fish Point, Lake Superior, on Thursday night, in consequence of a collision with the steamer MANITOBA, was made known Saturday. The following are the names of those saved:- Francis Dugot, of Cleveland, Captain; John Gore, of Troy, N.Y., first mate; Wm. H. Weaver, of Cleveland, second mate; James Kaffity, Leopold Smith, wheelsman; John Scott, lookout; Chas. Conner Parker, Thos. Murpby, and Peter Handlon, deckhand; also one coloured fireman, name unknown. Among the drowned are Bobby and Brown, first and second engineers and nine others whose names are unknown.
The steamer COMET was owned by Hannah & Co, of Cleveland, and was an old boat. The Cleveland `Leader’ speaking of her says:- “The COMET was eighteen years old, having been built in Cleveland in 1857. Several years later she was run down in the Detroit River, soon after raised, and placed in dry-dock, thoroughly repaired, and for many years there-after was engaged in the Lake Superior trade. In the Winter of 1875-4 she was again placed in dry-dock here, and received a very complete overhaul, some $15,000 being expended. Most of the time during the present season she has been laid-up here, having nothing to do. Early in the Spring she made several trips, but there was no money made and she was withdrawn. About three weeks since an arrangement was made and she was again placed in commision, and this was her first trip. Her cargo consisted of seventy tons of silver ore, consigned to some eastern parties, fifty four sacks of wool and a large amount of pig iron. The insurance on the cargo was $14,500. It’s value is not known. The vessel was rated B I, had a registered tonnage of 744 I6-1OO tons, and was valued at about $25,000, on which there was an insurance of $20,000. She carried a crew of about twenty persons, and was commanded by Francis Dugot, of this city.” (Cleveland)
Toronto Daily Globe
Wednesday, September 1, 1875
COLLISION BETWEEN THE STEAMBOATS `MANITOBA’ AND ‘COMET’
A Passengers Statement
August 27, 1875. — ” I was on deck most of the evening. The weather was delightful, and the stars shone brightly. A steamer was sighted after passing Whitefish Point, showing her green light, full starboard side. The steamer proved to be the COMET, and loaded with silver and iron ore, approaching us from the N. N. W. When whithin a short distance of the MANITOBA the COMET suddenly shifted her course, shutting out her green light and showing her red light, and crossing the MANITOBA’s bows. Neither boat whistled; if they had, I should certainly have heard it. I heard the bells in the engine room of the MANITOBA ring. The mate of the MANITOBA was in charge. Just before the collision Captain Symes came on deck, and seeing the position of the steamers, he jumped with lightning speed into the rigging to ascend to the pilot-house, but ere any orders could have been executed the steamers collided with a fearful crash; the MANITOBA striking the COMET near the forecastle, and cutting into her from twelve to fourteen feet. The COMET then swung around, and the steamers came together with a heavy crash, the water rushing into the COMET through the breach at a rapid rate. The hull of the COMET parted and sank almost immediately. The upper works appeared to crumble and float away from the time of the collision till she sank from sight,it being less than one minute. The mate and crew of the MANITOBA had their boats lowered and manned, ready to render assistance to the sufferers, ere the COMET sank; in fact, Capt. Symes, officers and crew of the MANITOBA, acted nobly, and did everyting in their power to save the lives of the crew of the sinking steamer. Six of the crew jumped from the wreck to the decks of the MANITOBA, and the boats afterwards picked up four, making ten in all saved. There were six men asleep in the forecastle of the COMET, and it is supposed that
they were crushed to death, or so badly injured that they could not make their escape. The first engineer was in bed asleep, and went down with the ship; the second engineer went down at his post. One poor fellow jumped from the wreck and caught the sash of one of the windows of the MANITOBA; his hold giving way, and falling, was heard to exclaim “Oh Lord God, I am gone.” One other poor man was seen to jump, but was carried down by the suction of the wreck. The other one of the crew that was lost was not seen or heard. The wheelsman of the MANITOBA was thrown forward over the wheel, and passengers that were sitting in the Saloon were thrown prostrate, and lamps were put out, such was the force of the concussion.
His Lordship the Bishop of Moosonee, and the Rev. Mr. Dixon, Methodist Minister, of Sarnia, were just preparing to hold evening service at the time of the accident, and ere they had time to gain the deck the wreck had disappeared.
There were about fifty cabin passengers, the greater part ladies, and several deck passengers on board the MANITOBA.They acted nobly, and particular mention is made of the ladies, who appeared perfectly cool, considering the trying circumstances; not a screetch was heard, only anxious enquiries,” is there danger”
One of the cooks of the MANITOBA became so excited that he Jumped on the wreck and had barely time to regain the MANITOBA before it was too late.
The mate of the MANITOBA states that the green light of the COMET was seen quite full; and that when within a short distance of each other the COMET gave a short blast with her whistle and ported her helm, bringing her red light in view, thus bringing the COMET to cross
the MANITOBA’s bows. He rang the bell to check, but the distance being short the steamers collided ere further orders could be executed.
One of the proprietors of the MANITOBA, Mr.John Beatty, together with his lady, was on board.
The time the accident occurred was about 8:4O p. m.
Toronto Daily Globe
Thursday, September 2, 1875
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According to the Cleveland Herald negotiations “are now going on between the underwriters and the Coast Wrecking Co. in relation to raising the prop. COMET. She is sunk in 21 fathoms of water, and it is believed she can be raised without much trouble, and that the value of the cargo will warrant the attempt.
Buffalo Commercial Advertiser
September 7, 1875 3-4
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During the night of Thursday, August 26th, the side-wheel steamer MANITOBA, Beatty’s line of steamers, between Sarnia and Duluth and bound up for that port, collided with the freight propeller COMET bound down, about two miles east of Whitefish Point, Lake Superior, and about 25 miles northwest from the terminus of the Sault Ste. Marie canal. The cause of the collision is not stated, but the officers of the MANITOBA say it was the fault of the COMET. A large hole was made on her starboard quarter and the water rushed in rapidly. The cargo of the COMET consisted for the most part of pig-iron, of which some 300 tons were taken on at Duluth. She had also on board 10 tons of Montana silver ore, shipped at Duluth together with a quantity of wool. The nature of her cargo rendered all attempts to save her useless and she sank to the bottom in about ten minutes. She had a crew of 25 men on board, of whom 10 are reported lost. The following are the names of those saved: Francis Duget, of Cleveland, captain; John Gore, of Troy, N.Y., first mate; W.H. Weaver, of Cleveland, second mate; J. Rafferty and L. Smith, wheelsmen; John Scott, lookout; Charles Conner, porter; Thomas Murphy and Peter Handlon, deck hands; also one colored man name unknown. Among the drowned are Bogey and Brown, first and second engineers and nine others, names unknown. The MANITOBA picked up the survivors and brought them to Sault Ste. Marie. The COMET was built by Peck & Masters at Cleveland in 1856 and was of 622 tons burthen and was valued, when completed, at $26,000. At present prices her valuation would not exceed $15,000. The loss on her cargo will foot up to at least $25,000. She was built for the New York Central Railroad and for many seasons was in the Buffalo and Chicago trade. In 1868 she collided with another boat at the mouth of the River near Stony Island and was sunk. She was raised immediately and large repairs were made on her at Cleveland. Her present owners, Hanna & Co., had her on the Lake Superior route during the greater portion of last season, but she was laid up in September because of the dull season in company with the ROCKET. This season, although the boats have ample cabin accommodations, they have been devoted almost exclusively to the freight traffic, visiting all Lake Superior ports.
The captain and crew of the ill-fated vessel furnish a few additional particulars of the disaster. They say the MANITOBA was plainly visible to the COMET, which sounded one whistle for her to take the starboard side but received no answer. The collision happened about 8:40 in the evening and the night was perfectly clear. The MANITOBA struck the COMET about sixteen feet from the stem, port side, and ran into her sixteen feet. The COMET sunk in less than three minutes and with the greatest difhcuhy her crew climbed on board the MANITOBA. During the excitement several of the crew of the MANITOBA jumped on board the COMET, but luckily returned to their own boat. She, however, leaked badly and required the constant use of her pony engine to keep her clear of water until she arrived at the Sault, where her freight was shifted aft and the leak repaired. George Smith, fireman, who Lived at Chatham, Ontario, and Michael Burke, deck hand, of Buffalo, were drowned. The names of the others besides those given it was impossible to obtain as all the vessel’s books went down with her. In addition to the cargo mentioned the COMET had fifty-three sacks of wool. The number of lives lost was eleven.
September 3, 1875
THE COLLISION BETWEEN THE STEAMERS “MANITOBA” AND ” COMET”
The following particulars of this sad occurence are from the Sault Ste. Marie `Pioneer’ extra, dated August 27, 1875.–
I was on deck most of the evening.- The weather was delightful, and the stars shone brightly. A steamer was sighted after passing White Fish Point, showing her green light, full, starboard side. The steamer proved to be the “COMETT”, and loaded with Silver and Iron Ore, approaching us from the N. N. W. When within a short distance of the “MANITOBA”, the “COMET” suddenly shifted her course, shutting out her green light and showing her red light,
and crossing the “MANITOBA’S” bows. Neither boats whistled; if they had I should certainly have heard it. I heard the bells in the engine room of the “MANITOBA” ring. The mate of the
“MANITOBA” was in charge, just before the collision Captain Symes came on deck, and seeing the position of the steamers, he jumped with lightening speed into the rigging to ascend to the pilot house, but ere any orders could be executed the steamers collided with a fearful crash; the “MANITOBA” striking the “COMET” near the forecastle, and cutting into her from 12 to 15 feet.
The “COMET” then swung around and the steamers came together with a heavy crash, the water rushing into the “COMET” through the breach at a rapid rate. The hull of the “COMET” parted and sunk almost immediately. The upper works appearing to crumble and float away from the time of the collision till she sank from sight, it being less than one minute. The mate and crew of the “MANITOBA” had their boat lowered and manned, ready to render assistance to the sufferers, ere the “COMBT” sank; in fact Captain Symes, officers and crew of the “MANITOBA”, acted nobly, and did everything in their power to save the lives of the crew of the sinking steamer. Six of the crew jumped from the wreck to the decks of the MANITOBA”, and the boats afterwards picked up four, making ten in all saved. There were six men asleep in the forecastle of the “COMET”, and it is supposed that they were crushed to death, or so badly injured that they could not make their escape. The first engineer was in bed asleep,
and went down with the ship; the second engineer went down at his post. One poor fellow jumped from the wreck and caught the sash of one of the windows of the “MANITOBA”; his hold giving way, and falling, was heard to exclaim: Oh! Lord! God!! I am gone!!!
One other poor man was seen to jump, but was carried down with the suction of the wreck. The other one of the crew that was lost, was not seen or heard. The wheelsman of the “MANITOBA” was thrown forward over the wheel; and passengers that were sitting in the saloon, were thrown prostrate, and lamps were put out, such was the force of the concussion. –
His Lordship, the Bishop of Moosonee, and the Rev. Mr. Dixon, Methodist Minister of Sarnia, were just preparingto hold evening service at the time of the accident, and ere they had time to gain the deck the wreck had disappeared.
There were about 50 cabin, the greater part Ladies, and several deck passengers on board the “MAMITOBA”. They acted nobly, and particular attention is made of the Ladies, who appeared perfectly cool, considering the trying circumstances, not a screech was heard, only anxious enquiries, “is there danger”?.
One of the cooks of the “MANITOBA” became so excited, that he jumped on the wreck, and had barely time to regain the “MANITOBA” before it was too late.
The mate of the “MANITOBA” states that the green light of the “COMET” was seen quite full; and that when within a short distance of each other the “COMET” gave a short blast with her whistle, and ported her helm, bringing her red light in view; thus bringing the “COMET” to cross the “MANITOBA’S” bows.
He rang the bell to check, but the distance being short, the steamers collided ere further orders could be executed.
One of the proprietors of the MANITOBA, John Beatty Esq., together with his lady, were on board.
The time the accident occurred was about 8:40 P. M.
Friday, September 3, 1875
Capt. Fred Merriman denies that the Coast Wrecking Co. will attempt the raising of the prop. COMET. He claims that the propeller is in much deeper water than was at first reported and that it would be an impossibility for any diver to reach her.
Buffalo Commercial Advertiser
September 11, 1875 3-5
THE STORM ON THE LAKES
(To the Editor of the Globe)
SIR,-The captain of the steamer BADGER STAE, which called here this moruing, en-route from Chicago, reports seeing thirteen vessels, ashore on Lake Michigan. The names or further particulars he was unable to give,as they were not approached near enough further than
to observe their relative positions with the aid of a telescope.
It is just 23 years since the northern lakes were visited by so severe a gale so early in September, and strange as it may appear, both occurred on the same date, with winds from the same quarter, though attended with far less loss of life and property in the former instance. Among other casualties occurring at that time was the loss of the schooner CLYDE near Toronto, having on board 50 hhds. of sugar, and 100 tons of coal; the wrecking of the schooner BUFFALO, and the loss of all hands, on Long Point; the Canadian prop. REINDEER
beached at Long Point Cut; the schooner OREGON foundered above Erie with the loss of all hands, with many others, the value of property lost being estimated by the underwriters at $47,125, and the number of lives sacrificed 37. It was also noticed in that year (I refer to 1852 ) that the equinoctial gales which usually occur on or about the 2Oth. of the month did not take place, nor did any weather of a violent character set in until towards the latter part of October. In short, the remainder of the season was not violently unpropitious for the shipping, or for navigation continuing uninterrupted until after the middle of December, the last disaster of the season being the loss of the brig JOHN HANCOCK, with a cargo of railroad iron, at Rond Eau,which occurred on the I8th. of that month.
The loss of such treacherous old crafts as the EQUINOX, COMET, and MENDOTA, can occasion no surprise. In the case of the EQUINOX, Capt. Dwight Scott, her principal owner, was the victim of his own recklessness, and the further loss of life has been most deplorable.
There are numerous old crafts yet afloat, and ere the season closes other casualties equally as sad and alarming, will doubtless occur. A Plimsoll would find much to occupy his time in going for these miserable old hulks
J. W. H. Detroit, Sept. 14, 1875
Toronto Daily Globe
Thursday, September 16, 1875
The investigation at Sarnia into the collision on Lake Superior between the MANITOBA and the COMET, in which the latter was lost, has closed and the first boat has been exonerated from all blame.
September 24, 1875
The collision case of the propeller COMET and steamer MANITOBA, pending in the United States district court many years, has been finally settled by a decision of the United States Supreme court, affirming the decision made by Judge Brown and ratified by Judge Baxter. The collision occurred about 8 o’clock in the evening on the 26th. of August, 1875, about six miles south and east of Whitefish Point, in Lake Superior. The COMET was bound from Grand Island to Cleveland, and the MANITOBA from Sarnia to Duluth. The master of the COMET claimed to have done all he could to avert a collision. He blew the whistle, altered his course, and finally stopped and reversed the engines, but to no purpose, for the MANITOBA struck her on the port bow, cutting her nearly in two, sinking her in less than two minutes and destroying the lives of eleven men. The principal fault charged upon the MANITOBA, was that of starboarding her wheel instead of porting, as she was bound to do as the vessels were meeting end, or nearly end on. The MANITOBA, on the other hand, declared that at the last minute, the COMET swung across her bows. Libels and cross libels were filed and the case tried in 1878, when Judge Brown found both vessels at fault, and decided that the loss should be equally apportioned between them. The loss on the COMET and her cargo with interest, was fixed at $85,818:16, and the damages to the MANITOBA, with interest, at $7,470. Under the decision the COMET was entitled to recover only $28,694:95, with interest at 6 per cent and costs. An appeal was taken to the United States Supreme court, which now sustains Judges Dexter and Brown.
The Marine Record
Thurs. June 16 1887 p. 4
Screw COMET. U. S. No. 5683. Of 621 tons. Built Cleveland, Ohio, 1857. First home port, Buffalo, N.Y. DISPOSITION — Collided with MANITOBA, August 26, 1875 on Lake Superior, 11 lives lost.
Merchant Steam Vessels of the United States
Lytle – Holdcamper List, 1790 to 1868