Freshwater Fury: The Great Lakes Storm of 1913

Charles S Price upside down, 1913

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.

detroit-news-great-lakes-stormMajor 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.

More at and even Michigan shipwrecks on Michigan in Pictures.

Sleeping Bear Dune Rides, 1940

Sleeping Bear Dune Rides, 1940, photo by Fred Dickinson

Sleeping Bear Dune Rides, 1940, photo by Fred Dickinson

In defiance of the weather we’re featuring a super-cool Michigan travelogue from 1949 on Absolute Michigan that begins in the Sleeping Bear Dunes. In addition to a selected of classic travel destinations, you can see the dunesmobiles in action.

Visit the Dickinson Gallery for many more classic photos and information on ordering and also check out Riding the Dunes from the Northern Michigan Journal for more about the Sleeping Bear Dunesmobiles.

World Water Day in the world’s water headquarters

Michigan and the Great Lakes from Space

Provided by the SeaWiFS Project, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, and ORBIMAGE (via Wikimedia)

I am not even going to tell you how long I agonized over the perfect photo with which to mark World Water Day. Water is one of the things that defines Michigan above all others. Industries may come and go, but (assuming we can take care of it) Michigan’s water is forever.

Here’s hoping…

The Salmon Trout River on the Yellow Dog Plains

The Salmon Trout River on the Yellow Dog Plains

The Salmon Trout River on the Yellow Dog Plains, photo by savethewildup.

Somewhere there are lines, and I’m pretty sure that today I will cross a few. Over the life of this blog, I have stayed away from things that have sides, because sides too often divide us and this blog is really all about loving Michigan.

In my day job, I build web sites. A short while ago, I and some really talented people put together a new site for some people that have spent the last few years at a hard and lonely task: speaking up and standing up for Michigan’s rivers and lakes against the terrible risks posed by metallic sulfide mining and acid mine drainage.

They have been focused on the Salmon Trout River on the Yellow Dog Plains, but that is just the first of many that will follow. To be very clear: There has never been a metallic sulfide mine that has failed to pollute its watershed. You can read more from Save the Wild UP … and scroll down for a special treat featuring tons more photos and music from Greg Brown’s upcoming CD, Yellow Dog.

More photos of the beauty of the Yellow Dog Plains and Salmon Trout River can be seen at Save the Wild UP’s web site.

If you are a photographer who loves Michigan’s water and wild, please consider making them available to be used in fighting metallic sulfide mining and other threats to Michigan’s legacy of unspoiled water and add them to the Save the Wild UP photo pool.

Greg Brown, Yellow Dog slide show (or new window)

Trying to stop time

Trying to stop time

Trying to stop time, photo by Robin of Loxley.

Robin of Loxley writes: The recent drab fall days have made me wish that it was just as simple as holding back the summer sun from setting.

Fayette Historic State Park

Fayette Historic State Park photo

that cliff by whitewave

This photo of the ghost town of Fayette by Paul Rose is one of many that appears in Absolute Michigan’s profile of Fayette Historic State Park. The Fayette Townsite is located on the UP’s Lake Michigan shore and is an excellent restoration of a historic village that features 20 historic buildings against the beautiful background of Big Bay De Noc.

Sailplanes on the Frankfort Beach

Sailplanes on the Frankfort Beach
This photo shows a sailplane being winch-launched from the beach near Frankfort in the 1930s. It is one of many photos that appears in Soaring and Gliding: The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Area by Jeffery P. Sandman and Peter R. Sandman. The 127 page, oversized softcover uses archival photographs from the 1920s to the present day along with brief text passages to tell the story of the rise of the Sleeping Bear Dunes area in northwest Michigan as a soaring and gliding mecca.

Reprinted with permission from Soaring and Gliding: The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Area by Jeffery P. Sandman and Peter R. Sandman. Available from the publisher online at or by calling 888-313-2665.