Category: Technical Dive


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

. . . . .

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



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

. . . . .

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

. . . . .

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

. . . . .

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

. . . . .

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 20 August 1852, ATLANTIC (wooden sidewheeler, 267 foot, 1,155 tons, built in 1849, at Detroit, Michigan) was loaded with immigrants when she collided with the propeller freighter OGDENSBURG and quickly sank south of Long Point on Lake Erie at about 2:30 a.m. Of the 600 on board, estimates of death range from 150 to 250. Numerous salvage attempts have been made through the years up through 1989, since there were supposed to be valuables on board when she went down.


Any one that watched the Sea Hunters or Dive Detectives knows the story of the ATLANTIC

The Wreck is also has the bonus of this near by Philips: Submarine, built in 1851, sank while being tested prior to attempting a salvage dive on the Atlantic. Unless I am mistaken, this is the oldest surviving submarine in existence and is therefore the most historically valuable wreck in Lake Erie! Philips was a Chicago shoemaker who began building submarines with the intent of salvaging Great Lakes shipwrecks. He built his first submarine at age 20, but it was crushed on its maiden voyage. This is his second submarine and was a success during testing. He is reported to have used it to take his family on tours of the bottom of Lake Michigan. Apparently the depths encountered at the Atlantic were too much for the hull and it sprung a leak and quickly sank. Philips later built and sold at least one recreational submarine which led to the drowning of its purchaser and his dog in Lake Michigan. Rumor has it that the wreck of this vessel has been located very close to the Atlantic.

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Categories: Lake Eire Technical Dive


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.


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


Vessel Type: Wooden Two-Masted Schooner
Location: Thunder Bay, MI
Vessel Build Info: 1862, Rogers, Olcott, NY
Shipwreck Specs: 112x25x10 210g 200n
Official Number: 4922
Names Other: None

Sinking Detail
On the foggy morning of June 2nd the steel steam barge Corsica collided with the schooner Corsican off Thunder Bay. The schooner was nearly cut in two and went to the bottom instantly with its entire crew.
Loss Date: 6/2/1893
Loss Place: off Thunder Bay Island
Loss Life: 6 (all)
Loss Reason: Collision
Vessel Cargo: Coal

Shipwreck Description
The cabin and stern of the wreck are badly damaged with large sections missing and piles of jumbled wreckage above the deck. The wheel with steering box is wrenched upwards and no longer attached to the rudder. Deck hatches are still intact revealing a coal cargo, though the entire deck has collapsed into the hull. The bow windlass, still wrapped with anchor chain, and a capstan remain upright. Rigged spars rest atop the wreckage and in adjacent sediments.

Dive Type: Entry level technical
Depth Deck(ft): 155 ft
Depth Bottom(ft): 160 ft
Depth Deck(m): 47 m
Depth Bottom(m): 49 m

Vessel Name
Also Known As
Build Year
Official Number
Build City
Build State
Vessel Type
Hull Materials
Builder Name
H. Rogers
Original Owner
Albert F. Smith and John Post
Original Owner Location
Oswego, NY
Tonnage Old Style
14,000 bushels
Final Disposition
Final Location
Off Thunder Bay Island near Alpena, MI.
Lake Huron.
Final Date Month
Final Date Day
Final Date Year
Final How
Final Notes
Sunk in collision with steamer CORSICA, all 6 hands lost.
History and Notes
1862, Sep 17 Enrolled Oswego, NY; 210.43 gross tons.
1865 219 gross tons.
1868 210.43 gross tons.
1872, Nov 7 Collision with HERCUES, a damaged vessel by collision of MEDBURY two days previous.
1872, Nov 23 Wrecked 21 miles W. Pt. Maitland, Lake Erie with iron ore; stripped and lightened Nov 26.
1873 Large repairs.
1876 Owned Griffin and Moon, Youngstown, NY.
1883 Ashore Pt. Pelee.
1884 Collision with iron carferry GREAT WESTERN in Detroit River.
1887 Partially rebuilt.
1888, May 3 Owned Kate McLean, Detroit, MI.
1891, Apr 22 Owned Luther J. Lindsay, Detroit, MI.
1893, Jun 2 Sunk in collision with CORSICA; owned Stephen B. Grummond, Detroit, MI.

The Corsica-Corsican Collision

Fog was an enemy to the lake boats when they were competing against the clock. To keep their schedules lake masters often broke navigation roles and kept their vessels operating at good steam even when the gloom was so thick they couldn’t see more than 100 feet off the bow.

The steamer Corsica, with Capt. William Cumming at the helm, was moving across fog shrouded Lake Huron at an estimated 11 miles an hour when it ran down and sank an unidentified schooner off Thunder Bay on the morning of June 2, 1893.

It was later learned that the lost schooner was the Corsican, a vessel with an almost identical name as the steamer that struck it. The Corsican, under the command of Capt. Edward Burner of Detroit, was sailing from Cleveland to St. Ignace with a load of coal. It sank with its crew of five men.

The steamer’s mate, who was at the helm when the accident happened, said there was no forewarning. He said the schooner appeared in front of the steamer so suddenly that neither he nor the other officers had time to react. The 300-foot-long steel steamship hit the smaller wooden vessel amidships, cutting it in two.

The Corsican sank so fast, Cumming said, that nobody on the Corsica had time to get the boat’s name or even a good description of it. He said it was cut into two parts and disappeared within moments, leaving no survivors. In the wreckage was found a man’s coat, which had a letter in a pocket. The letter, which did not have an envelope, was sent from Green Bay, Wisconsin. It was addressed simply to “Dear brother.”

The hull of the ore laden Corsica was so badly damage the steamer also was sinking. Lifeboats were raised on the davits, but before they were launched, Cumming made a dash for nearby Alpena.

The steamer didn’t make it to Alpena but it got to shallow water. Cumming saved his boat by grounding it on the nearest beach.

The Corsica was salvaged and remained on the lakes until 1926, when it was scrapped.


1926: NISBET GRAMMER sank after a collision with DALWARNIC in fog off Thirty Mile Point, Lake Ontario, while downbound with a cargo of grain. All on board were rescued from the 3-year old member of the Eastern Steamship Co. fleet. It went down in about 500 feet of water.

Ship of the month no 68  Everything you need to know about the NISBET GRAMMER

Underwater footage 

Nisbet Grammer (1923)
Year of Build:
Official Number:
Built at:
Tonnage (gross):
Final Location:
Charlotte, New York, U.S.A.
Foundered (Collision)
253x43x20 Owned by Eastern Steamship Co., Port Colborne, Ont. Built by Cammell Laird, Birkenhead England and launched 14/04/23. Engine 16-27-44×33 by builder. Sunk in collision with “Dalwarnic” 31/05/26 off Charlotte, New York.


GPS Location : N44°50.195′ W82°58.722′
Depth: 255 Feet
Wreck Length: 328 Feet Beam: 42 Feet
Gross Tonnage: 2820 Cargo: Unknown
Launched: 1892 by Wheeler, F.W. & Company in West Bay City, Michigan
Wrecked: May 22, 1914
1914: W.H. GILBERT sank in Lake Huron, about 15 miles off Thunder Bay Island following a collision with CALDERA. There was no loss of life. The hull was located in 1982 and rests at a depth of about 200 feet. CALDERA later became b) A.T. KINNEY and c) HILLSDALE.

The people of Port Huron and Sarnia, Ont., cities facing one another across the St. Clair River, endured the putrid smell of fermenting grain for weeks in 1911 after the grain freighter CITY OF GENOA was sunk in a collision.
Fog was blamed for the crash that sent the wooden hulled steamer to the bottom in 50 feet of water at about 5 a.m. on Aug. 26.
The CITY OF GENOA was downbound that morning with 125,000 bushels of’ wheat and corn in its holds when it encountered a blanket of fog on the river at about 4 a.m. Capt. George T. Inman dropped a bow anchor in mid stream, about 100 feet off the Sarnia waterfront, with plans to wait until the morning sun burned away the haze. The ship swung around in the current so its bow was turned upstream.
An hour later, the downbound ore freighter W.H. GILBERT, commanded by Capt. C.C. Hanley rammed the ill-fated grain ship bow-on. The steel hulled GILBERT tore open the bow section of the 19-year-old CITY OF GENOA. The steamer sank so quickly that crew members sleeping below deck barely escaped with their lives.
Luckily, the GENOA only sank to its decks and remained upright. Crew members waited in the pilot house until the Gilbert turned around and picked them up.
The GILBERT, which had Barge No. 127 in tow, was damaged in the crash but the ship did not sink.
The CITY OF GENOA remained on the bottom for several weeks, with only its pilot house and stack showing, until Sarnia salvager Tom Reid built a cofferdam around the hull and raised the wreck. The ship was so badly damaged it was declared a total loss. Its water soaked grain cargo was already fermenting but an effort was made to salvage it anyway. The wreck was towed downstream to the Reid Wrecking Company dock where the grain was unloaded and spread out to dry.
The smell of the fermented wheat and corn was strong and the stench caused a general fervor among residents on both sides of the river, The newspapers remarked almost daily about the terrible odors coming from Tom Reid’s dock.
The engines and boilers of the GENOA were removed and the wooden ship was burned at Sarnia on Oct. 9, 1915. The blackened hull was one of the many abandoned wrecks from Reid’s business that were towed out on Lake Huron and sunk. The ship lies with other wrecks of the Sarnia “Ghost Fleet” in about 80 feet of water at the southern end of the lake.
Port Huron Daily Tribune
(James Donahue’s shipwreck column)
Steam screw W.H. GILBERT. U. S. No. 81382. Of 2,820 tons gross; 2,002 tons net. Built West Bay City, 1892. Home port, Detroit, Mich. 328.0 x 42.5 x 20.5.
Merchant Vessel List, U. S., 1899


The small schooner ST PETER was loaded with grain when she sank 35 miles from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on 5 May 1874. The crew reached shore in the yawl.

Schooner St. PETER, cargo grain, foundered Lake Michigan, May 1874. Total loss. Cargo loss $12,000 Hull loss $10,000.
Casualty List for 1874
Chicago Inter-Ocean, Dec. 25, 1874

. . . . .

The crew of the small schr. ST. PETER have arrived at Milwaukee in a yawl after having pulled a distance of 35 miles from the northeasterly direction, where they report the schooner sunk. When the leak was first discovered the ST. PETER had nearly 2 ft. of water in her hold, and nothwithstanding every effort was made to free her with the pumps, the water gained so rapidly what the crew were compelled to abandon her in a snking condition. She went down soon after their departure. The ST. PETER had a cargo of 8,000 bu. corn, which was taken on board at Chicago. It was consigned to J.H. Vought, of this city.
Buffalo Commercial Advertiser
May 8, 1874 3-5

The schr. ST. PETER which sunk on Lake Michigan a few days since, was insured in the Mercantile Insurance Co., of Cleveland, and the Mechanics’ & Traders’ of New York, to the amount of $6,500. The cargo of wheat was insured for $11,000. The vessel was owned by Capt. Flood, who 2 years ago sailed the CITY OF THE STRAITS. She measured 119 tons, rated B1, and was registered at a valuation of $4,500.
Buffalo Commercial Advertiser
May 9, 1874 3-5
The small schooner St. PETER, grain laden, sunk in Lake Michigan, 35 miles from Milwaukee on May 5th. The crew reached shore in the yawl boat all right.
Port Huron Daily Times
Saturday, May 9, 1874
The schr. St. PETER, which a few nights since sprung a leak and sunk in Lake Michigan, laden with wheat, was during her brief career an unfortunate craft. She was built at or near New Baltimore, on Lake St. Clair, during the fall of 1868 and winter of 1869, commencing her career in the spring of that season, during which she twice got ashore, and afterwards struck a rock near Kelley’s Island and sunk, laden with 7,000 bushels of wheat. She was abandoned as a total loss, but in the season following was rescued and sold to Detroit parties who subsequently made sale of her to parties on Lake Michigan.
Detroit Free Press
May 10, 1874

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Categories: Technical Dive





On 04 May 1839, ATLAS (wooden schooner, built in 1836, at Dexter, New York) was carrying building stone from Chaumont Bay to Oswego, New York, when she foundered 6 miles from Oswego. The steamer TELEGRAPH rushed out of Oswego to assist her but only found a little flotsam. All five on board were lost: Capt. Asahel Wescott, Ortha Little, William Ackerman, John Lee and Asa Davis (a passenger).

Rochester, New York – The wreckage of the schooner Atlas which sank in 1839 during a gale has been located in Lake Ontario. The Atlas may be the oldest confirmed commercial schooner discovered in the Great Lakes. A team of shipwreck enthusiasts, Jim Kennard, Roger Pawlowski and Roland Stevens, located the schooner while searching for sunken ships near Oswego, NY.

A Disastrous Event

In early May 1839 the schooner Atlas was transporting a cargo of Black River limestone from Chaumont to the port of Oswego. Within a few miles of its final destination the Atlas encountered gale force winds from the northwest which more than likely caused a shift in the heavy cargo taking the schooner swiftly to the bottom of Lake Ontario. The schooner sank so quickly there was no time for anyone to escape and all on board were carried to the deep depths of the lake. Only a few articles from the schooner were found later by the steamer Telegraph that had been sent out to where the Atlas was seen going down. These included a pair of oars, a coat, two hats, and a pair of boots.

Schooner built in 1838

The Atlas, a two masted schooner, was built in Dexter, NY in 1838 and owned by Ortha Little & Son for the specific purpose of transporting building stone from the quarries in the Chaumont, NY area. The cargo was owned by Asa Davis who at that time was furnishing the cut stone for the U.S. government pier in Oswego. Stone from the Davis quarries was later used in the construction of the Gerrit Smith building (public library) and a number of other structures in Oswego.

Lost on the Atlas

The crew of the Atlas consisted of Ashel Westcott, of Brownville, Jefferson county, aged about 26; Ortha Little, of Hounsfield, Jefferson county, part owner of the schooner and a sailor on board, aged 48; William Ackerman of Brownville, a sailor, aged 19; John See, a sailor, aged 18; and Asa Davis of Chaumont, owner of the cargo, aged 30 years, son of Phineas Davis, of Mexico, NY.