Freshwater Fury: The Great Lakes Storm of 1913
November 7, 2009
Charles S Price upside down, 1913, Wikipedia
Dear wife and Children. We were left up here in Lake Michigan by McKinnon, captain James H. Martin tug, at anchor. He went away and never said goodbye or anything to us. Lost one man yesterday. We have been out in storm forty hours. Goodbye dear ones, I might see you in Heaven. Pray for me. / Chris K. / P.S. I felt so bad I had another man write for me. Goodbye forever.
~A message found in a bottle 11 days after Plymouth disappeared, dictated by Chris Keenan, federal marshal in charge of the barge
Wikipedia says that the Great Lakes Storm of 1913, also known as the “Freshwater Fury” or the “White Hurricane”, was a blizzard with hurricane-force winds that ravaged the Great Lakes November 7-10, 1913. With the sinking of 19 ships, the stranding of another 19 and a death toll of at least 250, it remains the deadliest and most destructive natural disaster in Great Lakes history.
Major shipwrecks occurred on all but Lake Ontario, with most happening on southern and western Lake Huron. Lake masters recounted that waves reached at least 35 feet (11 m) in height. Being shorter in length than waves ordinarily formed by gales, they occurred in rapid succession, with three waves frequently striking in succession. Masters also stated that the wind often blew in directions opposite to the waves below. This was the result of the storm’s cyclonic motion, a phenomenon rarely seen on the Great Lakes.
In the late afternoon of November 10, an unknown vessel was spotted floating upside-down in about 60 feet (18 m) of water on the eastern coast of Michigan, within sight of Huronia Beach and the mouth of the St. Clair River. Determining the identity of this “mystery ship” became of regional interest, resulting in daily front-page newspaper articles. The ship eventually sank, and it was not until early Saturday morning, November 15, that it was finally identified as the Charles S. Price. The front page of that day’s Port Huron Times-Herald extra edition read, “BOAT IS PRICE — DIVER IS BAKER — SECRET KNOWN”. Milton Smith, the assistant engineer who decided at the last moment not to join his crew on premonition of disaster, aided in identifying any bodies that were found.
You can get a map to the wreck of the Charles S Price, and here’s a list of shipwrecks of the 1913 storm and an account of the weather. You can see more photos from Wikipedia and also in Lakeland Boating’s great slideshow of some of the on and offshore damage from the Freshwater Fury.