November 8, 2012
Glen Willis of the Pointe Aux Barques Lighthouse Society has an excellent article on The Great Storm of 1913 that explains that most historians agree that the most significant and most dreadful storm on Lake Huron took place over the weekend of November 8-10, 1913. Known by all mariners simply as “The Storm”, it was first detected on the western end of Lake Superior on Thursday, November 6th then progressed rapidly south and east, dropping temperatures and spawning marine warnings.
At Pointe aux Barques as the temperature dropped, it began to rain. As the wind picked up the rain turned to sleet. The sleet began to ice up everything it touched. The waves offshore quickly reached 10 to 12 feet, and then more. Then the snow came, thick and wind driven. Shipmasters out on the lake were finding sailing conditions that were unlike any they had seen before. The sleet that had coated their vessels turned the pilothouse windows opaque. It sealed and froze the doorways. To step outside a cabin meant that the skin would be painfully pelted by frozen bits of sleet & snow…
By midday Sunday at Pointe aux Barques, the snow was so thick and so heavily driven by the wind that vessels out on the lake could not see the rays of the light. At nearby Harbor Beach waves had already destroyed some lakefront buildings and had run the 552-foot D.O. Mills ashore. At mid-lake the wheelsman on the 500 foot Howard M. Hannah, Jr. found that the forward motion of the ship had ceased and that the bow had fallen off into the trough of the waves. Without enough power to drive it the ship was at the mercy of the elements. Waves were higher than the ship is tall and as they crashed down upon the ship the windows and the cabins were stove in. The ship was not under command and as it drifted into Saginaw Bay the master could see the flash of the Port Austin Reef Light. He then knew that his ship would not be saved.
Pointe aux Barques is the oldest continuously operating Light on the Great Lakes, and the Pointe Aux Barques Lighthouse Society preserves the light and operates a museum. Visit them for more!
More shipwrecks on Michigan in Pictures.