Category: Lake Superior

E.B. Allen

Site Plan

Above is the site map for the EB Allen Wreck

GPS Location: N45° 00.976’ W83° 09.899’
Depth: 100 Feet
Wreck Length: 134 Feet
Beam: 26 Feet
Gross Tonnage: 276
Cargo: Grain
Launched: 1864 by H.C. Piersons at Ogdensburg, New York
Wrecked: November 20, 1871
Description: On its last voyage, the E.B. Allen was bound for Buffalo, New York, carrying a cargo of grain. When it was about 2 miles southeast of Thunder Bay Island, it met the bark Newsboy in heavy fog. The two ships collided, and the Newsboy tore a large hole in the Allen’s portside. As the ship began to sink, the Allen’s crew was removed and taken on board the other vessel. Today, the E.B. Allen sits on an even keel, with its hull largely intact. Although the masts are broken and most of the decking is gone, the windlass, anchor chains, and rudder are still in place.

ROBABLE LOSS OF THE SCHOONER ‘PERSIAN’ — The following telegram from Oswego of yesterday – “The schooner PERSIAN, from Chicago to this port with wheat, collided with the schooner E. B. ALLEN 15 days ago on Lake Huron and as nothing has been heard of the former vessel since, it is feared that she is lost with all on board”
The schooner E. B. ALLEN, the vessel which collided with the schooner PERSIAN – reached this port on Thursday, with a cargo of 520 tons of coal, from Cleveland, and from the captain we learn that his vessel collided with the PERSIAN about 4 o’clock on the morning of the 16th of September. When about four miles north of Presqu’isle and three miles from shore – both craft being bound down at the time of the disaster – striking the PERSIAN on the starboard quarter with the blunt of her bows. He also informs us that the last he saw of the PERSIAN she was heading for land, and is surprised to learn that nothing has been heart of her since that time. The ALLEN lost her jib-boom; aside from this her damages were of a trifling nature.
The PERSIAN was the property of Captain Long, her commander, and Mr. Micheal Murphy of Oswego. She registered 545 tons, old style, rated B 1, was built at Oswego in 1855 by James Navagh. Valued at $11,000 and received large repairs in 1865. The crew also hailed from Oswego.
Chicago Tribune
Saturday, October 3, 1868

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The Schooner PERSIAN. – As all hopes are abandoned as to the safety of this vessel or any of her crew, the depositions of the crew of the E.B. ALLEN, which collided with her, were taken here yesterday. From their statement, both vessels were bound down with a fair wind, near Presque Isle (Michigan), some four miles from land. The Persian was ahead, winged on.* The ALLEN, with both sails on one side, and hauled up more**, was gradually gaining. In attempting to pass the PERSIAN who, being ahead, had the right-of-way, through some mismanagement, the ALLEN struck the PERSIAN on the quarter, and the last seen the PERSIAN she was hauled up, heading for shore. It seems almost unaccountable that such an accident, with such fatal results, could occur with both crafts in plain view, in good weather, and the conduct of the Captain of the E.B. ALLEN will not bear a favorable scrutiny either on moral or legal ground. Some small articles have been picked up in the vicinity of the disaster, which, without doubt, belonged to the PERSIAN, beyond that there will probably be nothing learned. The knowledge that she has gone down with some ten human beings, and desolated ten homes, through the mismanagement of one man, is all that is known at the present time. – Chicago Republican, 5th.
Detroit Free Press
October 7, 1868

*winged on – in a fore and aft vessel, sailing with the wind from near astern, with booms and sails out on both sides of the boat’s centerline. Also termed “wing on wing” or “wing and wing.”
**hauled up more – tacking a few points off the wind. This adds speed, but heels the boat over more and requires more sail-handling.

NOTE–The virtually-intact PERSIAN was located in deep water in the area of the collision in 1991. Both vessels were from Lake Ontario – the PERSIAN out of Oswego and the ALLEN from Ogdensburg, NY. Ironically, the ALLEN was lost about 40 miles to the southeast of the PERSIAN in another collision, three years later.

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The Detroit Tribune calls the attention of captains to the fact that the wreck of the schr. PERSIAN, which was sunk by colliding with the schr. ALLEN a few years ago, lies in the track of passing steamers, a short distance above presque Isle, Lake Huron, with her masthead not far below the surface of the lake and in danger of being run foul by passing crafts. It was doubtless this vessel that was reported a few days since by Capt. Hunt of the stm. PHILADELPHIA.
Buffalo Commercial Advertiser
September 8, 1869 3-4

Year of Build:
Official Number:
Built at:
Ogdensburg, NY
Vessel Type:
Hull Materials:
Number of Decks:
Builder Name:
Harrison C. Pearson
Original Owner and Location:
E. B. Allen & Son, Ogdensburg, NY
Number of Masts:
Tonnage (old style):
Final Location:
Thunder Bay Island, MI.
Lake Huron.
18 Sep 1871
Final Cargo:
Struck by bark NEWSBOY; sank.

1865, Apr 28 Enrolled Ogdensburg, NY; 134.1×26.1×11.2; 294.06 gross, 100 net tons; 2 mast.

1868 275.97 gross tons.

1871, Sep 18 Sunk.


Artwork by Ken Marshall

1892 The wooden propeller VIENNA sank in foggy Whitefish Bay after being hit broadside by the wooden steamer NIPIGON. The latter survived and later worked for Canada Steamship Lines as b) MAPLEGRANGE and c) MAPLEHILL (i) but was laid up at Kingston in 1925 and scuttled in Lake Ontario in 1927.

Vienna lies in 120 to 148 feet (37 to 45 m) of water at 46°44.46′N 84°57.91W. Vienna is one of the more accessible wreck dives in the Whitefish Point Underwater Preserve because she is about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) from shore She is known as a “blow-off” wreck dive because she lies closer to shore and extended-range divers go to this wreck during high winds and rough seas or when they have limited time.

Other names : none
Official no. : 25875
Type at loss : propeller, wood, bulk freight
Build info : 1873, Quayle & Martin, Cleveland
Specs : 191x34x14, 1006g 829n
Date of loss : 1892, Sep 16
Place of loss : Whitefish Bay
Lake : Superior
Type of loss : collision
Loss of life : none
Carrying : iron ore
Detail : Towing barge MATTIE C. BELL(qv) in fog. Rammed broadside by wooden propeller NIPIGON and went to bottom quickly with huge hole in her side. NIPIGON tried to take her in tow.
Octagonal pilothouse
Built for Cleveland Navigation Co. registered out of Cleve.
Wreck located in 1974.

Steambarge NIPIGON Sinks the Steamer VIENNA in Lake Superior.
Insured In Buffalo-The Crew Safe
A private dispatch from Harvey’s Marine Bureau at Sault Ste. Marie to insurance companies here states that the steamer NIPIGON arrived there this morning with the crew of the steam barge VIENNA on board. The NIPIGON bound up, and the VIENNA ore laden and downward bound, collided about six miles this side of Whitefish Point, last night, and the VIENNA sunk shortly alter In 60 fathoms, being therefore a total loss. The NIPIGON’s stem was badly twisted. The VIENNA is owned by the Oriental Transportation Company of Cleveland, and is valued at about $47,000 and insured for $44,000. She was built at Cleveland by Quayle & Son in 1873 and registers A 2 in the Inland Lloyds. Worthington & Sill wrote the insurance on the VIENNA to the amount of $30,000, which is distributed in nearly equal amounts among the following companies: London of North America; Greenwich; St. Paul and Detroit Fire and Marine.

Further Concerning the VIENNA.
Sault Ste. Marie, Sept. 17. — The steamer VIENNA, Capt. J. W. Nicholson, went down in 60 fathoms of water near Whitefish Point Iast night, the result of a collision with the steam barge NIPIGON. The VIENNA, with the MATTIE C. BELL in tow, was coining down laden with iron ore from Marquette. The NIPIGON, towing the schooners MELBORNE and DELAWARE, was bound up. The weather was fair, the night clear as the two steamers met four miles this side of Whitefish Point, both whistled for the port side. They seemed to be passing all right, but the next instant they came together with a terrific crash, the NIPIGON striking the VIENNA on the port side. The latter’s stem and fore foot were badly crushed, but she was not leaking much. The VIENNA, however, had received a mortal blow. Both steamers at once dropped their consorts, and the NIPIGON took the VIENNA for the shore. When within a mile of shoal water, after being towed for an hour the VIENNA sunk. Her crew jumped aboard the NIPIGON as she went down and were all saved, together with their effects. They arrived here on the NIPIGON at 4 o’clock this morning. The tug MERRICK has been sent for the schooner BELL and the two consorts of the NIPIGON are lying under Whlteflsh Point. The cause of the collision is as yet a mystery.
Vance of Milwaukee and Elphicke of Chicago hold some insurance on the sunken steamer, the ampount of the latter’s holding being $5,000.
Cleveland, Sept. 17. — The steamer VIENNA sunk off Whitefish Point was owned in the Orient Line of M. A. Hanna & Co. This is the third boat of the Orient Line, which was composed of three steamers and three tow barges, sunk by collision within a year. The first two barges, VERONA and HELENA, were raised, but abandoned to the underwriters as total losses. The HELENA was raised and sold to Wolf of Milwaukee, and Gilchrist of Vermillion bought the wreck of the VERONA. The VIENNA was fully insured and the owners are probably satisfied to let her go as long as the crew escaped. All the boats of the line were for sale last winter.
Buffalo Enquirer
Saturday, September 17, 1892

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It is hourly more certain that the barge OCONTO was also lost in the same gale with the WESTERN RESERVE. She was in tow of the steamer TOLEDO with the GUIDING STAR when the storm struck them last Tuesday, both schooner broke adrift and the GUIDING STAR has gone ashore about 15 miles west of Marquette with five feet of water in her hold.
Port Huron Daily Times
Saturday, September 3, 1892

Steam screw VIENNA. U. S. No. 25875. Of 1,005.75 tons gross; 829.42 tons net. Built Cleveland, Ohio, 1873. Home port, Cleveland, Ohio. 191.4 x 38.3 x 14.1 Of 528 nominal horsepower.
Merchant Vessel List, U. S., 1890



September 1, 1892, the upbound WESTERN RESERVE, flagship of the Kinsman fleet, sank approximately 60 miles above Whitefish Point. There were 31 casualties among the crew and passengers. The lone survivor was Wheelsman Harry W. Stewart.


The Mammoth Western Reserve Foundered Tuesday Night.
Remained to Tell the Tale of the Wreck and Loss of the Crew.

He Was One of the Most Widely Acquainted Men on the Lakes – His Family Among the Missing.
SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich., Sept. 2. — The fish tug E. M. B. A. arrived down last night having as a passenger Harry Stewart of Algonac, a wheelsman, the only survivor of the mammoth steel steamer WESTERN RESERVE which foundered Tuesday night about 9 o’clock 60 miles above White Flab Point, on the course to Keeweenaw.
The WESTERN RESERVE, up-hound and light, left the Soo Canal Tuesday afternoon having on board as passengers Capt. Peter Minch, her owner, his wife, three children and his wife’s sister, besides the regular crew of 22 hands.
The story as told by Stewart is as follows: “Everything went well until about 60 miles above White Fish, when the first warning any one aboard had of impending danger was a terrible crash about 9 A. M., caused by the huge craft breaking in two half way up the rigging. She took in water fast from the start and the yawl boats were lowered. Capt. Minch, his family, and the officers and crew of the boat to the number of 17 got into the wooden yawl and the others took to the metallic one.
“The Reserve sank in ten minutes, and before she had hardly gone out of sight the metallic yawl capsized. The other went to her assistance, but only succeeded in rescuing two of her occupants. Capt. Myer’s son and the steward. The 19 survivors started for White Fish, 60 miles away. The wind was about west when they started, but veered to the north, making considerable sea. The yawl weathered the breakers all night until 7 o’clock the next morning, when about ten miles from Life saving Station No. 10 and about a mile from the shore it capsized,”
Stewart says that he saw none of the occupants after that. He struck out for the shore, but the cries of the children, the screams of the women, and the moaning of the men were terrible for a few moments, when all became silent. Stewart was in the water two hours. He struck shore about ten miles above the station, and had to walk there before reaching any one to render him assistance.
A search failed to find trace of any other survivor of the wreck, and there is no question that they were all drowned.
The WESTERN RESERVE was one of the largest craft on the lakes, and has only been in the Lake Superior trade a little over a year. She was owned by P. C. Minch , who with his family was lost.
The Lost Skipper.
Cleveland, Sept. 2. — Capt. Minch was one of the best known vessel owners and masters on the 1akes. He was about 66 years old. He was horn at Vermillion and grew up in the business. His father, Philip Minch, was one of the most extensive owners of vessel property in his time. Capt. Minch sailed from his boyhood until about five years ago, when he came ashore to manage his large vessel interests. He with others owned the steamers WESTERN RESERVE, ONOKO, PHILIP MINCH, HORACE A. TUTTLE, A. EVERETT, JOHN N. GLIDDEN, and schooners GEORGE H. WARMINGTON and SOPHIA MINCH. The schooner FRED A. MORSE, which was lost a few months ago, was also owned by him. He was a kind hearted man and was well liked especially by those in his employ. Two sons, Philip, the oldest, a member of the firm Palmer & Co., vessel makers-and two grown up daughters survive him, The boy who was lost was about 10 years old, and the little girl about 7. The steamer was built by the Cleveland Shipbuilding Company in 1890. She was one of the largest and finest steamers on the lakes, and has several times broken the record for big cargoes. Capt. Meyers, her master, was in the Minch fleet for a number of years and was well known.
Bodies Recovered.
Newberry, Mich., Sept. 2. – Stewart walked 12 miles to the nearest life-saving station where he gave notice of the disaster. The savers began to patrol the beach today, and this morning found two bodies. One was identified as that of Capt. Minch, by his watch. The other was that of a dark-haired lady. To-night a telephone message stated that another body had come ashore. Stewart left here today for Sault Ste. Marie. Be appears none the worse for his terrible experience.

The Ill-Fated Steamer Went Down With Her Engines Working.
Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., Sept. 2. – Harry Stewart, the only survivor of the wreck of the WESTERN RESERVE, which broke in two in the lake Tuesday morning, was somewhat recuperated this morning and was again interviewed by an Associated Press representative who was the first and only one to see him on his arrival here and to whom he told his story in private.
The only additional fact obtained was that the WESTERN RESERVE went down with her engines going. As the crew pulled away they, could see the monster puffing and plunging in the waves until she sank out of sight. There is no way of identifying the place where the steamer went down. It was out of sight of land and there is no way of locating the wreck. The yawl was capsized at the first shoal from the shore by the breakers. It is not probable that any of the occupants survived the cold and waves long except Stewart, who had a heavy knit close-fitting jacket which he say’s alone saved him, he was entirely exhausted when he struck shore, and almost unconscious for an hour before he could move and then he could hardly walk and had to half crawl the ten miles to the life-saving station, where he was rubbed and well taken care of until the tug brought him here. The men at the live-saving station report that several bodies have been washed ashore. Stewart will therefore remain here for a few days to identify them.

Of the Extraordinary WESTERN RESERVE Disaster on Lake Superior.
Experience of the Sole Survivor – Local Opinion
Nothing else was talked of in marine circles today but the extraordinary WESTERN RESERVE disaster. Its like was never before heard of on the lakes. Two theories were advanced by the vessel men. Capt. John Green and Capt. William Robinson, two veterans, were of the opinion that the vessel sheared herself and broke in two and broke in two from the upper deck down. “Shearing” is the cutting of rivets by the working and twisting of the plates they are bolted through. They say the weight to be sustained by main strength of fabric when the vessel’s bows were out of water for 40 or 50 feet of her length, together with the pound of her wide, flat bottom on the seas, would cause any vessel to shear herself. The other theory is that of accident or explosion on board the boat or striking an obstruction in the heavy sea. Capt. J. J. H. Brown and Capt. Dan McLeod think the WESTERN RESERVE was too staunch a vessel to be otherwise sunk. The first theory, however, has the more supporters. A recent survey of the WESTERN RESERVE, shows that she was 300 foot long and 42 feet of beam. She was built of mild steel with a tensile strength of 60,000 pounds and riveted according to regulations. Her upper deck of steel was strengthened by angle bulb beams on every frame, giving unusual strength. The upper dock stringer, plate and upper shear streaks have each partial double butt straps. The bilge was triple riveted, and the sheer streak doubled to provide for the cutting of two more gang-ways if necessary.
There is general sorrow at the wholesale wiping out of the Minch family. Capt. Minch was very highly thought of all over the lakes, and was a most genial and progressive man. It is thought in some quarters that this disaster will be sonething of a setback to the building of steel vessels on the present plan. With a cargo, or with engines and boilers amidships to give the steamer even draft fore and aft, the mishap would not have occurred. It would be impossible for a staunch wooden steamer to break completely in two as the survivor of the WESTERN RESERVE says she did.
Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., Sept. 2. — All vessels passing through the canal today have their flags at half mast in memory of the steamer WESTERN RESERVE, which now lies in 600 feet of water 60 miles northwest of Whitefish Point. Harry Stewart, the only survivor gave some additional particulars of the disaster today. It was a pitiful tale of a hopeless struggle for life. He said : “The yawl that I was in was two small to hold the crew of 19. It was loaded down to within a foot of the water and all night the spray kept breaking over us. We worked continuously bailing out the water with the only pail we had and our hats. I remember Mrs. Minch hanging to one of the children and making a desperate effort for life. Just then I heard Mr. Minch cry out: My God, there goes one of my children. Carl Myer, the Captain’s son, and I were together. He asked me if I thought we could reach the shore. I said we will try. The last I saw of him was four or five rods from the boat which had capsized. This boat was afterwards found by the life saving crew.
“While we were in the yawl,” young Stewart continued, “a steamer passed us, which I think was the NESHOTO. We could see her red light, but they could not see us. We were to the westward of them. We shouted and screamed for half an hour, but in the roar of the storm they could not hear us. If we had had a light they could have seen us. As a final resort we tried to burn one or the women’s shawls, but it was too wet and would not light. I do not think the bodies will raise. Those who held life jackets were the two ladies, Carl Meyer, Burt Smith and one fireman. The life jacket I secured was in the bottom of the yawl when she capsized. Someone had thrown it off and I got hold of it and put it on in the water. It is not true that the crew were in a panic at the time the steamer broke in two. On the contrary everybody seemed cool. We put the children in the lifeboat first and then all hands got in. The metallic life boat broke up very soon, and we had to take its occupants off it. It was not long before the steamer went down. As she sank we heard a very loud report, but do not know what it was. I have no idea what caused the steamer to break in two. She was carrying water ballast aft, but I don’t think there was any forward, I do not understand why the mainmast should have broken and fallen on the deck, it is all a mystery to me.

Newberry, Mich., Sept. 2. — The life saving crew of the Grand Marias Station are patrolling the beach for ten miles each way today in the search for bodies from the steamer WESTERN RESERVE, which foundered off this port Tuesday night. Up to noon but three bodies had been recovered. One of them is known to be that of Capt. Peter Minch, the steamers owner. The body of the woman found last night is still unidentified. The remains are but partially clothed, indicating that she had rushed from her stateroom to the deck only to find the steamer sinking. She had not had time to return for her clothing, but had been hurried into the yawl boat. The third body is also unidentified.
Harvey Stewart. the sole survivor, is expected this afternoon to identify the bodies. Telegraphic orders were received from Cleveland today to properly care for the dead and the son of the owner will reach here tomorrow to take personal charge.

Cleveland. Sept. 2. — The survivor of the WESTERN RESERVE disaster, Wheelman Stewart, says positively in an answer to an inquiry that the steamer broke in two in forcing her way into a big sea. The excitement among Capt. Minch’s friends at the disaster has caused much discussion regarding its cause. Well informed vessel owners are satisfied that the boat was being rushed into head seas, as big steel steamers of her kind always are, great dependence being put in the water bottom. It is thought that the boat was being unduly pushed on account of her owner being aboard. The steamer was doubtless out of water 100 feet each way, as she rode on the crest of a big wave. Had she been a wooden boat a leak would have shown the danger, but being of steel the rivets holding her together broke all at once under the strain.
Buffalo Enquirer
Friday, September 2, 1892

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The steamer WESTERN RESERVE with 27 aboard, broke in two in Tuesday night’s gale and sank 20 miles off Sable Point, lake Superior. Harry Stewart, the wheelsman, is the only survivor. She sank in 10 minutes’ and carried to their deaths. The vessel owner Foster J. Minch, his wife, son, and daughter, his sister-in-law and her daughter.
Port Huron Daily Times
Friday, September 2, 1892

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A prominent vessel man in conversatlon with an ENQUIRER reporter this morning said: “I would like to know if it is true that the forward water ballast compartments of the WESTERN RESERVE was always kept filled when the vessel was running light. If such was the case all doubts as to the cause of the accident are at rest, for according to calculations, the strain amidships under the circumstances would be almost beyond belief. Cleveland papers will say nothing about it, but no vessel could stand for any length of time the strain thus imposed when running into a head sea.” Another vessel man who was in Cleveland Sunday, saw Stewart, the sole survivor of the disaster, and says Stewart told him that to get to the boats at the time of the accident he distinctly remembers that he had to jump a crack fully three feet wide that extended across the upper deck of the steamer just forward of the mainmast. This should settle conclusively that the WESTERN RESERVE did not blow up, but actually did break In two as was first reported.
Buffalo Enquirer
Tuesday, September 13, 1892

Steam screw WESTERN RESERVE. U. S. No. 81294. Of 2392.05 tons gross; 1965.08 tons net. Built Cleveland, Ohio, 1890. Home port, Cleveland, Ohio. 300.7 x 41.2 x 21.0
Merchant Vessel List U. S., 1891

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Categories: Lake Superior Still Missing



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 46°43.02′N 84°52.00′W in Whitefish Bay of Lake Superior.[7] 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.”[8] The wreck is protected for future generations by the Whitefish Point Underwater Preserve as part of an underwater museum.

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.
Meaford Monitor
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

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.
Amherstburg Echo
September 3, 1875

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.
Meaford Monitor
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

(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.
Amherstburg Echo
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


On 27 July 1884, ALBERTA (steel propeller passenger/package freight vessel, 264 foot, 2,282 gross tons, built in 1883, at Whiteinch, Scotland, by C. Connell & Co.) collided in fog six miles north north west of Whitefish Point on Lake Superior with the JOHN M. OSBORNE (wooden propeller “steam barge”, 178 foot, 891 tons, built in 1882, at Marine City, Michigan. The OSBORNE had two barges in tow at the time. ALBERTA stayed in the gash until most of OSBORNE’s crew scrambled aboard, then pulled out and the OSBORNE sank. ALBERTA sank in shallow water, 3 1/2 miles from shore. 3 or 4 lives were lost from the OSBORNE, one from ALBERTA in brave rescue attempt while trying to get the crewmen off the OSBORNE. This was ALBERTA’s first year of service. She was recovered and repaired soon afterward. She was the sister of the ill-fated ALGOMA which was lost in her first year of service. The wreck of the OSBORNE was located in 1984, 100 years after this incident.

Lots on the wreck and photos located here.


48° 48′ 57.996″ N, 86° 57′ 31.23″ W RAPPAHANNOCK
Other names : none
Official no. : 111083
Type at loss : propeller, wood, bulk freight
Build info : 1895, Jas. Davidson, W. Bay City, MI hull# 66
Specs : 308x43x21, 2380g 1192n
Date of loss : 1911, Jul 25
Place of loss : near Jackfish Pt., Ont.
Lake : Superior
Type of loss : storm
Loss of life : none
Carrying : coal
Detail : Bound for Duluth with the big barge MONTEZUMA in tow, she was put on the beach in an attempt to save her from a terrific 75 mph storm and fog, but pounded to pieces anyway. She later drifted into 80 feet of water and sank. The wreck was later clamshelled to remove her cargo.

Bay City, Mich., July 27. — The steamer RAPPAHANNOCK, owned by Capt. James Davidson of this city, sank off Jackfish Point, Ont., in the 70-mile gale that swept Lake Superior Tuesday night, but her crew was saved. Her tow, the barge MONTEZUMA, is somewhere on the lake and the steamer SACRAMENTO of the Davidson fleet left the Soo last night in search of her. Both vessels were coal laden, Ashtabula to Duluth.
The RAPPAHANNOCK sprang a leak in mid-lake and Capt. W. A. Rattray of Algonac headed her for Jackfish. Before reaching the harbor the vessel filled so fast that she was run aground on Jackfish Point in 18 feet of water. The crew was barely off when the vessel, which had begun to break up, slipped off the Point into 50 feet of water. She will be abandoned.
Buffalo Evening News
Thursday, July 27, 1911

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Detroit, Mich., July 28. — The barge MONTEZUMA, of the Davidson Steamship Company’s fleet, which broke away from the steamer RAPPAHANNOCK in the gale on Lake Superior Tuesday, has been found at anchor off Grand Island by the steamer SACRAMENTO and Is being towed to Duluth.
Buffalo Evening News
Friday, July 28, 1911 5 – 3


Steam screw RAPPAHANNOCK. U. S. No. 111083. Of 2,380 tons gross. Built 1895. On July 25, 1911, vessel foundered off Jackfish Bay, Lake Superior. With 18 persons on board. No lives lost.
Loss Reported of American Vessels
Merchant Vessel List, U. S., 1912

Steam screw RAPPAHANNOCK. U. S. No. 111083. Of 2,380 tons gross; 1,911 tons net. Built West Bay City, Mich., 1895. Home port, Duluth, Minn. 308.1 x 42.5 x 20.2 Freight service. Crew of 17. Of 1,200 indicated horsepower.
Merchant Vessel List, U. S., 1911


On 19 June 1889, NORTH STAR (steel propeller freighter, 299 foot, 2,476 gross tons, built in 1889, at Cleveland, Ohio) collided with CHARLES J. SHEFFIELD (steel propeller freighter, 260 foot, 1,699 gross tons, built in 1887, at Cleveland, Ohio) about sixty miles west of Whitefish Point on Lake Superior in heavy fog. The NORTH STAR kept her bow in the SHEFFIELD’s side after the impact, giving the crew time to board. The SHEFFIELD then sank in 8 minutes. Her loss was valued at $160,000. The courts found both vessels to be equally at fault after years of litigation.


Other names : also seen as C.J. SHEFFIELD
Official no. : 126414
Type at loss : propeller, steel, passenger & package freight
Build info : 1886, Globe Iron Works, Cleveland
Specs : 259x37x23 1700g 1319n
Date of loss : 1889, Jun 19
Place of loss : 60 mi W of Whitefish Point**
Lake : Superior
Type of loss : collision
Loss of life : none of 17
Carrying : light (kerosene?)
Detail : She was rammed broadsides – just forward of her stack – in heavy fog by the steel freighter NORTH STAR, which kept her bow in the hole until SHEFFIELD’s crew clambered aboard. When she backed away, SHEFFIELD sank in 8 minutes, a total loss of $160,000. She went down in 900 feet of water. Both vessels were later found to be at fault.
Home port: Cleveland. Owned by H. Brown.
1st collision between two steel ships.
When built, she was a highly innovative bulk freighter, with a modern hatch plan and iron decks.



Stern is located at N 48o 12.018’ W 88o 29.606’ Bow located at N 48o 12.003’ W 88o 29.525’
In 1947, the Canada Steamship Lines steamer EMPEROR, loaded with ore and bound for Ashtabula, hit the rocks off Isle Royale at 4:10 a.m. The vessel sank within minutes but the crew was able to launch 2 lifeboats. Captain Eldon Walkinshaw, First Mate D. Moray, and 10 other crew members drowned when one of the lifeboats overturned. Twenty-one other survivors were rescued by the U.S.C.G. cutter KIMBALL.

The Emperor was constructed in 1910 by the Collingwood Shipbuilding Co. in Collingwood, Ontario, for the Inland Lines Ltd. of Midland, Ontario. It was launched on December 17, 1910 and assigned registry number 126,654. At 525 feet in length, it was the largest Canadian-built freighter ever built at the time of her launching. The ship had a beam of 56 feet in beam, a depth of 27 feet, with 4641 registered tons and 7031 gross tons. It contained a 1,500 horsepower triple expansion steam engine with two Scotch boilers which powered the ship to a nominal speed of 10 knots. The Emperor was built of steel, with an arch and web frame construction to provide an unobstructed cargo hold with hatches placed every 12 feet. The pilothouse, captain’s quarters, and mate’s quarters were at the bow of the ship, and the crew’s quarters and engine room were aft, with unobstructed deck space between.

Although launched in 1910, the Emperor did not begin its first voyage until April 1911. On its first trip, the ship broke its main shaft in Thunder Bay, Ontario and had to be towed all the way to Detroit for repairs.[4] Also in 1911, the ship overrode its anchor while in the Soo locks, tearing a hole in the bottom and sinking the vessel.

In May, 1916, the ship was sold to the Canada Steamship Lines Ltd. It was involved in some additional minor incidents, including groundings in 1926 and 1937, and the loss of a rudder in 1936. including the death of a crew member who fell into the hold in 1918

Bettey Tomasi and Frederick Stonehouse
Lake Superior has triumphed over vast numbers of sea-going vessels – most being early sailing wood-hulled craft which were no match for Nature’s moody lady. But the Great Lake continues to prove her superiority over man’s humble efforts to traverse her as she still occasionally claims a trophy in the form of a mighty steel hulled cargo ship. Such was the case in the demise of the ore carrying EMPEROR – Destination — depths!
We had read about her, dreamed about her and yearned to see her and now, finally we were actually going to dive on her! Our excitement mounted as we helped each other into the last wet suit glove prior to our entry off the gunwhale of our dinghy. We tried mentally to prepare ourselves for the icy onslaught of Lake Superior’s merciless waters, but immediately on ‘splash-down’ we became aware that, while we were mentally prepared to descend into the frigid depths, we were definitely not physically ready! The liquid ice seeped into our suits and until our body heat was able to warm the water, a process requiring only a minute or two but seeming much longer, we began to wonder at the dubious wisdom of this adventure. Once the gigantic bow loomed into sight, though, all doubts disappeared and we began eagerly our descent down the starboard – swimming over one ghostly gaping hatch after another. In the eeriness of the swim, it seemed as if the emptied hatches would go on adinfinitum or, perhaps one of the reported trapped crewmen might make himself manifest to confront us with our audacity at trespassing on this watery graveyard. These thoughts were dispelled when we, at last, reached the end of the cargo holds and came upon the stern cabin which was emblazoned with the identification “EMPEROR” across the superstructure. It had been a relatively easy swim to the cabin, to about 110 feet as the ship rests on a steep incline of an underwater granite mountain — one of many such edifices in Lake Superior. However, a glance at our underwater pressure gauges indicated that there would be no time on this trip for exploring the stern as we were well aware that the swim to the surface would be more challenging as it was all ‘uphill’ and therefore, we wanted to conserve enough air for the climb.
During the entire dive, our thoughts were taking us back in history to the early June morning in 1947 when the mighty EMPEROR made her final voyage.
On November 6, 1918, the 525-foot ore carrier CHESTER H. CONGDON met death on the razor edged reefs of Isle Royale’s deadly Canoe Rocks. Twenty-nine years later, on June 4, 1947, the Canada Steamship Lines steamer EMPEROR repeated the CONGDON’s error and died on the same reef. The crew of the CONGDON was lucky; the moody lake gods smiled and not a man was lost, but the gods frowned on the EMPEROR and 12 of her crew of 33 drowned in the
At 3:10 p. m., June 4, the EMPEROR was working her way through the wispy tendrils of a thick Lake Superior fog. The silence of the inky darkness was pierced only by the intermingling sounds of the low rumble of the steamer’s powerful 1500 horsepower Scottish built steam engine, the gentle chuckle of water at her barn-sized bow, and the methodical bleat of her bellowing fog horn. Behind was the dock she had just left at Port Arthur (Thunder Bay, today); ahead, her destination, Ashtabula, Ohio on the shores of Lake Erie.
Sleepily, First Mate James Morrey peered ahead, out through the pilothouse window, but the fog prevented his seeing much beyond the EMPEROR’s bow. Morrey was bone-tired. He had spent the steamer’s entire dockside period (as per regulations) personally supervising the loading of the steamer’s iron ore cargo. Now it was his watch and his responsibility to guide the freighter safety past Isle Royale. There would be plenty of time for sleep later. Sipping his coffee, he continued to search ahead.
Five minutes later, the sleepy Mate was jarred from his feet and thrown to the steel deck. At her full speed of ten knots, the EMPEROR had rammed into the northeast edge of Canoe Rocks! As there was no doubt that the vessel was sinking, an immediate SOS was radioed off
into the airways. Quickly the desperate signal was answered by the U. S. Coast Guard Cutter KIMBALL. The cutter had been at Isle Royale on purely routine matters when the call for help galvanized her into action. With her engines straining at forced full speed, the staunch Coast Guard craft headed for the EMPEROR, now rapidly sinking 3½ miles, 281 degrees from the Blake Point Light (Isle Royale).
On board the ore carrier the situation was serious. Vast torrents of freezing water were gushing through the steamer’s sprung hull plates and rapidly flooding her holds. Aware that the steamer’s life was almost over, fear-stricken crewmen rushed to their lifeboat stations and began to abandon ship. Within an hour the once proud steamer had slipped beneath the
surface of the lake. Above she left the inevitable result of any marine disaster, water-logged lifeboats wallowing in the gentle swells, floating debris of every nature and a total of 21 stunned, half-frozen survivors.
When the KIMBALL arrived on the scene she immediately pulled ten men from a half swamped lifeboat, four from the slippery keel of an overturned boat and seven more from a frigid perch atop the nearly awash Canoe Rocks. All told, twelve men died in the disaster and
it isn’t inconceivable that some of them actually were trapped in the steel coffin of the steamer’s hull when she sank! Notable among those lost was her captain, Eldon Walkinshaw of Collingwood, a veteran Lake skipper of 42 years experience, and James Morrey, the First Mate.
The reason for the loss of the EMPEROR is clouded in the mystery born of a multitude of bureaucratic investigations, all carefully conducted with the distinct advantage of hindsight. That the steamer was far off course is not hard to determine, but why, is. In the official
report, the Canadian Board of Investigation blamed the Mate, stating that he “did not keep proper watch” As the Mate was conveniently lost with the ship, he could hardly defend himself. The Board did, however, criticize the prevailing system “which required the First Mate to be in charge of the loading of the ship during the period when he should have been off duty. (and) . . . resulted in his becoming overly tired, suffering as he was from a lack of sleep.”
But that conclusion hardly touches the root of the problem. The EMPEROR was far to the south of her intended course. Why? The downbound steamer track from Port Arthur was well known, and is in fact indicated on navigational charts, and there was no unusual wind or sea conditions (fog limits visibility, but does not force a ship off course). Regardless of Mate Morrey’s ability to keep a proper watch, the helmsman should have held the steamer on the proper heading. Why then did the steamer strike the rocks? Stories of drunkeness and irresponsibility are legion, and probably untrue. The real reasons for the loss will most likely never be known. The fact remains, however, that the steamer was far south of her course, without apparent reason, when she struck and died on Canoe Rocks.
For the scuba diver, the wreck of the EMPEROR presents both a tempting and a terrifying target. Tempting because it is a relatively intact ore carrier, and therefore a very unusual wreck. But she does paint a streak of terror (however faint and admitted or not) through a
diver’s heart. The grisly remains of at least part of the dozen men lost during the sinking are undoubtedly still entombed in the stern, not a pleasant thought for the diver exploring the steamer’s inner recesses.
Resting on the west slope of Canoe Rocks, only a short distance northeast of the CONGDON, the steamer’s bow is in a shallow 40 feet, but the stern slants sharply downward into 150 foot depths. Listing to port with her hatch covers blown open by trapped air during the sinking and covered in part by a thick brownish-green lake growth, the EMPEROR is an awe-inspiring sight.
The EMPEROR, official number 126654, was launched in 1910 at the Coliingwood, Ontario shipyard of the Collingwood Shipbuilding Company. Until 1916 she was owned by the Inland Lines Ltd., but in May of that year she was purchased by the Canada Steamship Lines. At 7,031 gross registered tons, 525 feet in length, 56 feet in beam and 31feet in depth, she
wasn’t the largest vessel on the lakes, lthough she was still respectable indeed.
During her life, the EMPEROR was just another bulk carrier; but in death, she became the “Emperor” of Isle Royale, and the exalted playground of scuba divers.
Almost before we realized it, we were breaking surface and helping each other with our clumsy reentries into the dinghy for the return trip to our ‘mother ship,’ the W. R. Busch which was standing off about a quarter of a mile in about 600 feet of water. As soon as our teeth stopped chattering, we began to all report different sights, reactions and enthusiasms. On one point we were all clearly agreed — we must return and make another ‘drop’ on one of
the most exciting wrecks Isle Royale has to offer. There was so much left to explore in the stern cabins, that the mutual obsession and resolve was unanimous. We would return to
the wreck of the EMPEROR!
Author’s note: Subsequent dives were made the following summer revealing cabins
with bunk beds still intact, replete with shoes under them! Could these have belonged to the crewmen entombed somewhere in the bowels of the ship?
Canadian Diving News
Vo. 4 No. 9 April


Official no. : 155317
Type at loss : propeller, wood, bulk freight
Build info : 1898, J. Davidson, W. Bay City, MI hull# 87
Specs : 297x44x21, 2226g 1928n
Date of loss : 1924, May 18
Place of loss : 6 miles off Agawa Bay, NW of Soo
Lake : Superior
Type of loss : storm
Loss of life : 5
Carrying : pulpwood
Detail : Towing the huge barge CHIEFTAIN, she was caught in a gale. She cut the unweildly barge loose, then foundered.

1924 – ORINOCO sank about 6 miles off Agawa Bay, Lake Superior, while upbound with coal. The wooden steamer had sought shelter behind Michipicoten Island while towing the barge CHIEFTAIN, but then tried to return to Whitefish Bay. ORINOCO began to leak under the stress and was lost.

The 295-foot wooden steamer ORINOCO, towing the 342-foot wooden schooner-barge CHIEFTAIN, was upbound light on Lake Superior, en route to load a cargo of logs for pulping. The tow encountered a 60 m.p.h. gale and the strain of tossing and twisting in the seas, with the heavy barge on the towline aft, proved to be too much for the 26-year-old ORINOCO. Her seams began to leak badly and she was making water fast. When the tow was about 40 miles above Whitefish Point, the barge CHIEFTAIN was cast off, for Capt. Anthony Lawrence of the ORINOCO had seen that his ship’s pumps were unable to stem the incoming water and he knew that ORINOCO would soon founder.
Capt. Lawrence ordered seventeen of the steamer’s crew into the lifeboats off Montreal Island, while three men remained aboard in an unsuccessful but gallant attempt to beach ORINOCO on the Island. Very shortly thereafter, however, the steamer plunged to the bottom of the lake, taking her captain, the chief engineer and the wheelsman with her. The lifeboat managed to survive the heavy seas and reached Montreal Island safely, although two men succumbed to exposure in the boat; the other fifteen reached shore.
GARGANTUA, under the command of Capt. D. A. Williams, happened to be in the area of Montreal Island at the time, with a log raft in tow, and her crew spotted the ORINOCO’S men on the beach. GARGANTUA was hove to and a boat was sent ashore to pick up the survivors, an operation which proved to be completely successful.

Buffalo, Sept. 22 – The stmr. ORINOCO went on the Waverly Shoals, 3 miles from the Buffalo breakwater, on the Canadian side, early this morning. The tug FABIAN went to her assistance, but after repeated efforts failed to release her Arrangements to lighter the steamer’s cargo are now being made. The barge GEORGER will be sent to receive a portion of the cargo taken out. The ORINOCO is out 4 feet. There is a heavy fog on the lower end of the lake, but the sea is not dangerously high.
Milwaukee Scrapbook
September 23, 1898

. . . . .

Steam screw ORINOCO. U. S. No. 155317. Of 2,226 tons gross; 1,928 tons net. Built West Bay City, Mich., 1898. Home port, Duluth, Minn. 295.0 x 44.0 x 21,0 Freight service. crew of 18, Of 800 indicated horsepower.
Merchant vessel List, U. S., 1921

Portage River Unobstructed,
Houghton, Mich., June 5. — The Zenith Dredge Company of Duluth has just finished dredging a 22-foot channel through Portage river, and all known ubstructions to navigation have been removed. Just before the job was completed a 3500-pound anchor, lost by the steamer ORINOCO last October, was brought up.
Buffalo Evening News
Friday, June 5, 1908

Steam screw ORINOCO. U. S. No. 155317. Of 2,226 tons gross. Built 1898. On May 18, 1924, vessel foundered on Lake Superior, with 22 person on board. 5 lives being lost.
Loss reported of American Vessels
Merchant Vessel List, U. S., 1924

The propeller ORINOCO of the Davidson line is reported to be hard aground on Bar Point, Lake Erie, and so far tugs have been unable to release her. She is loaded with a mixed cargo and efforts will be made to lighter her at once.
Buffalo Evening News
April 28, 1905

. . . . .

The steamer ORINOCO, which went ashore at Bar Point Thursday, was released at noon yesterday apparently uninjured, she was sent on to Port Huron.
Buffalo Evening News
April 29, 1905


The crew of the steamer THOMAS W. PALMER, ore laden, which was sunk yesterday in a collision with the HARVARD off Stannard Rock in Lake Superior, was brought to the Soo last night by the HARVARD. All the water compartments of the PALMER are full and she is nearly a complete wreck. The PALMER was struck on the port bow and almost cut in two, during a dense fog. The crew, consisting of 19 men, barely had time to get aboard the HARVARD, and did not even save their effects.
Buffalo Evening News
May 17, 1905

The steamer THOMAS W. PALMER was in collision with the HARVARD in a fog on Lake Superior yesterday morning and sank in deep water off Stanard Rock.
The THOMAS W. PALMER was a wooden steamer valued at $70,000. She was built in 1889 and was owned by William Livingstone of Detroit.
Chicago Inter Ocean
May 18, 1905
Cleveland, May 18. — The steamer T.W. PALMER, which was sunk on Lake Superior by collision with the HARVARD, was insured for $100,000. She had a partial cargo of coal shipped by the Pittsburg Coal Company.
Buffalo Evening News
May 18, 1905
The steamer THOMAS PALMER, which was sunk in collision with the Steel Trust steamer HARVARD about 40 miles off Copper Harbor in Lake Superior, is on the bottom in about 600 feet of water, and is of course a total loss. She carried $100,000 insurance on hull. There is sure to be a big lawsuit in this case between the owners, by reason of the uncertainty of the cause of the collision.
Buffalo Evening News
May 18, 1905
THOMAS W. PALMER Built Feb. 9, 1889 Bulk Propeller – Composite
U. S. No. 145513 2134 gt – 1622 nt 281′ x 41′ x 20′
Sunk in collision with stmr. HARVARD May 16, 1905, c.30 miles from Manitou Island Light, Lake Superior.
Detroit/Wyandotte Shipbuilding Master List
Institute for Great Lakes Research
Perrysburg, Ohio

When the steamer Thomas W. Palmer pitched forward and sank beneath the waters of Lake Superior Tuesday morning, she went down with every whistle blowing a parting salute.
On the deck of the Harvard, which had nearly cut the Palmer in two in the dense fog, stood the Palmer’s captain, George V. Stilthen. His eyes were filled with tears, for the Palmer had been his home for upwards of fifteen seasons, and his hand had pulled the first and last signal cord of the vessel.
Capt. Stilthen reached Detroit late last night, from the Soo.
“The Harvard crashed into us on the port side between the second and third hatches, a little forward of amidships,” he said. “The blow nearly cut us in two, and I called to the captain of the Harvard to keep her bow in the Palmer’s side until my crew could board his boat. This he did. We sprang aboard without stopping to get our effects.
All Over in Five Minutes
“When the Harvard pulled away, with a rush the water poured into the great hole in the Palmer’s side, and she began to settle at the bow. She went down quickly. First the spars went by the board, then her smokestack, and then the cabins and the texas.
“As she settled lower the tremendous rush of water set her whistle going, and as she pitched forward and disappeared she was blowing a final farewell. It was all over in five minutes.”
The captain stopped a moment.
Harvard Badly Damaged
“The Harvard’s bow was badly smashed, and she was otherwise injured forward,” he continued, “and then the captain signaled the G. Watson French, which had passed a short time before. Thinking that in the condition of the Harvard it would be safer to transfer to the French, we did so. We were not on the Harvard more than an hour. ”
Capt. Stilthen speaks in the highest terms of the courtesy and assistance of the captains of the Harvard and the French, and says that every aid was extended the crew of the unfortunate vessel.
The collision occurred a few miles from Stannard Rock, and about forty miles from Copper Harbor. The crew of the Palmer is now coming down on the French.
Underwriter’s Heavy Loss
The Harvard reached the Soo early Wednesday morning, with her forward water compartments full. She was drawing 23 feet, but lightered 300 tons of ore and reduced her draft to 19 feet. At 9 o’clock last night she was locked down at the Soo.
The steamer Palmer, which was owned by William Livingstone, of Detroit, was insured for $100,000. The loss is the first large one for the underwriters in two years. The Palmer was loaded with coal from the Pittsburg Steamship Co., out of Cleveland.
Detroit Free Press
Thursday, May 18, 1905

Steam screw THOMAS W. PALMER. U. S. No. 145513. Of 2,134 tons gross; 1,622 tons net. Built Wyandotte, Mich., 1889. Home port, Detroit, Mich. 281.0 x 41.0 x 20.0 Crew of 16. Of 1,000 indicated horsepower.
Merchant Vessel List, U. S., 1903

Other names : none
Official no. : 145513
Type at loss : propeller, composite, bulk freight
Build info : 1889, Detroit Dry Dock, Wyandotte, MI hull# 90
Specs : 281x41x20, 2134g 1622n
Date of loss : 1905, May 16
Place of loss : off Stannard Rock
Lake : Superior
Type of loss : collision
Loss of life : none
Carrying : coal
Detail : She was rammed amidships and almost cut in two by the steel steamer HARVARD. HARVARD stayed in the hole she had caused until PALMER’s crew made it aboard, then backed away, allowing PALMER to sink like a brick. The collision, which occurred in heavy fog, had jammed PALMER’s whistle, which blew until she settled.
Sources: atl,is(2-69),lss,gwgl,ns1,nsp,mpl

889 Thomas W. Palmer 1905

Composite Great Lakes bulk freighter

Built at Wyandotte MI by Detroit Dry Dock Co., Hull 90
Launched Feb 9, 1889

296’ LOA, 281’ LBP, 41’ beam, 23’ depth
2 decks, coal-fired boilers, triple expansion engine, 1000 IHP

Enrolled at Detroit MI May 7, 1889 (#84)
281.0 x 41.0 x 20.0, 2134.36 GT, 1622.44 NT US 145513 to:
Percheron Steam Navigation Co., Detroit MI, William Livingstone, Mgr. (home port Detroit MI)

Entered service 1889

Sunk May 16, 1905 in collison with steamer Harvard 32 miles east of Manitou Island, Lake Superior. No lives lost. Harvard rammed Palmer in fog. Knowing Palmer would sink, master of Harvard held bow into her until her crew could cross over to his ship. Enrollment surrendered June 22, 1905.

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Categories: Lake Superior