Anchors Aweigh: S.S. Greater Detroit Anchor Recovered

ss-greater-detroit

Launch of the SS Greater Detroit,  courtesy Great Lakes Maritime Institute

Thanks to an alert reader who let me know that the dredge in yesterday’s photo was on the way back from a mission to retrieve a 6000-pound anchor from the Detroit River for the Great Lakes Maritime Institute. There’s a video below and you can get the story via mLive:

The anchor emerged from the river just before the sun set behind the Ambassador Bridge, catching its first glimpse of daylight for the first time in 60 years.It once belonged to the luxury steamer Greater Detroit, one of the two largest side-wheel steamers ever built, which ferried passengers around the Great Lakes in style from the mid-1920’s through the mid-1950’s.

The Great Lakes Maritime Institute has a nice history of the SS Greater Detroit aka “Leviathan of the Great Lakes” that says in part:

The Detroit & Cleveland Navigation Company was planning on expanding after World War I by providing more daily commercial traffic on Lake Erie between Buffalo, New York and Detroit, Michigan.

…In 1922 the naval architect Frank E. Kirby provided the Detroit & Cleveland Navigation Company with a architectural drawing for a massive side wheel steamer that would carry passengers and freight on the Buffalo to Detroit route. The plan called for the Detroit & Cleveland Navigation company to construct two vessels, the S.S. GREATER DETROIT and the S.S. GREATER BUFFALO which would provide continual service across Lake Erie.  The length overall of the vessels was 536 feet and with the side paddle wheels the overall width of the vessel was ninety six feet.

…The Detroit & Cleveland Navigation Company was so proud of the Steamer GREATER DETROIT that when they issued new stock certificates in 1925 the image of this vessel was engraved at the top of the certificates. The vessel could not only carry some 2,127 passengers, but provided 625 staterooms and made allowances for the storing of 103 automobiles on the main deck.

There were excellent accommodations provided for the passengers and the crew. In the pilothouse there was a separate steering wheel for the bow rudder to help navigate the narrow rivers and harbors. The bow rudder also helped when the steamer left the Detroit dock. At 5:30 P.M. the captain would ring the telegraph to the engine room and request the engineer to start the engines and to back away from the dock. Using the Detroit River current and the bow rudder the vessel would swing out into the current and turn around headed downriver to Lake Erie.

Read on for lots more including some cool old brochures and click to their homepage for more in the recovery!

The Great Storm of 1913 and the Charles S. Price

charles-s-price-great-storm-1913

I’ve featured the worst storm in Great Lakes history before, but ThumbWind has a cool feature on The Great Storm of 1913 that includes some interesting information and photos. It says in part:

…the most savage storm in the history of the Great Lakes swept the inland waters November 7-12, 1913 resulting in much greater loss of life. Combined of the forces of two storm fronts colliding with hurricane force bringing monstrous waves and driving snow and ice that doomed anyone caught out on the big lake. The greatest losses in lives and ships occurred on Lake Huron where 24 vessels were lost or severely damaged. 10 ships went to the bottom of the lake.

…On Lake Huron big freighters were tossed about by winds blowing from seventy-five to eighty miles an hour. One of these steamers was the Charles S. Price which received more space on the front pages of newspapers than any other ship. On Saturday morning, the Price, laden with soft coal, left Ashtabula, Ohio. When the freighter passed the town of St. Clair before dawn on Sunday morning, November 9, Second Mate Howard Mackley gave a short blast of the whistle as a signal to his young bride that he was passing and in reply she turned on an upstairs light in their home. By dawn the Price was making its way up Lake Huron. About noon Sunday the Price was seen north of Harbor Beach by Capt. A. C. May of the Steamer H. B. Hawgood.

On Monday afternoon a big steel freighter was seen floating upside down in the lake about eight miles north and east of the mouth of Lake Huron. Many people were anxious to learn the name of the steamer, although it was generally believed to be the Regina. On Wednesday morning an attempt was made to find out the identity of the vessel, however, owing to the high sea the diver did not make his descent. Lake Huron kept its awful secret for almost a week. It was not until Saturday morning, November 15, that William H. Baker, a diver from Detroit, solved the mystery. When he went down he read the name of the steamer twice and the letters spelled out Charles S. Price. The forward part of the bottom of the ship was buoyed up by air that was held in her when she turned turtle, but two streams of bubbles were coming out of the bow which meant that she would settle gradually. On Monday morning, November 17, the Price disappeared from view.

Read on for much more and follow Thumbwind on Facebook too!

More Michigan shipwrecks on Michigan in Pictures.

Happy Halloween … and the Indian Drum

pumpkin-on-the-shore-happy-halloween

Happy Halloween, photo by Julie

Happy Halloween everyone! I shared this story a few years ago, but since we’re back up on northern Lake Michigan at a time when the witch of November is rousing, why not share it again? In 1915, William MacHarg & Edwin Balmer wrote a book called The Indian Drum. The whole book is available online along with 53,000+ more books at Project Gutenberg. Chapter I begins:

Near the northern end of Lake Michigan, where the bluff-bowed ore-carriers and the big, low-lying, wheat-laden steel freighters from Lake Superior push out from the Straits of Mackinac and dispute the right of way, in the island divided channel, with the white-and-gold, electric lighted, wireless equipped passenger steamers bound for Detroit and Buffalo, there is a copse of pine and hemlock back from the shingly beach. From this copse—dark, blue, primeval, silent at most times as when the Great Manitou ruled his inland waters—there comes at time of storm a sound like the booming of an old Indian drum. This drum beat, so the tradition says, whenever the lake took a life; and, as a sign perhaps that it is still the Manitou who rules the waters in spite of all the commerce of the cities, the drum still beats its roll for every ship lost on the lake, one beat for every life.

So—men say—they heard and counted the beatings of the drum to thirty-five upon the hour when, as afterward they learned, the great steel steamer Wenota sank with twenty-four of its crew and eleven passengers; so—men say—they heard the requiem of the five who went down with the schooner Grant; and of the seventeen lost with the Susan Hart; and so of a score of ships more. Once only, it is told, has the drum counted wrong.

At the height of the great storm of December, 1895, the drum beat the roll of a sinking ship. One, two, three—the hearers counted the drum beats, time and again, in their intermitted booming, to twenty-four. They waited, therefore, for report of a ship lost with twenty-four lives; no such news came. The new steel freighter Miwaka, on her maiden trip during the storm with twenty-five—not twenty-four—aboard never made her port; no news was ever heard from her; no wreckage ever was found. On this account, throughout the families whose fathers, brothers, and sons were the officers and crew of the Miwaka, there stirred for a time a desperate belief that one of the men on the Miwaka was saved; that somewhere, somehow, he was alive and might return. The day of the destruction of the Miwaka was fixed as December fifth by the time at which she passed the government lookout at the Straits; the hour was fixed as five o’clock in the morning only by the sounding of the drum.

The region, filled with Indian legend and with memories of wrecks, encourages such beliefs as this. To northward and to westward a half dozen warning lights—Ile-aux-Galets (“Skilligalee” the lake men call it), Waugaushance, Beaver, and Fox Islands—gleam spectrally where the bone-white shingle outcrops above the water, or blur ghostlike in the haze; on the dark knolls topping the glistening sand bluffs to northward, Chippewas and Ottawas, a century and a half ago, quarreled over the prisoners after the massacre at Fort Mackinac; to southward, where other hills frown down upon Little Traverse Bay, the black-robed priests in their chapel chant the same masses their predecessors chanted to the Indians of that time. So, whatever may be the origin of that drum, its meaning is not questioned by the forlorn descendants of those Indians, who now make beadwork and sweet-grass baskets for their summer trade, or by the more credulous of the white fishermen and farmers; men whose word on any other subject would receive unquestioning credence will tell you they have heard the drum.

Read on at Project Gutenberg.

View Julie’s photo bigger and see more in her Holidays slideshow.

See 700 more Halloween photos in the Absolute Michigan photo group  and more haunted, Halloween fun on Michigan in Pictures.

November 18, 1958: The Wreck of the Carl D Bradley

Steamer Carl D Bradley Rodgers City Mich

Steamer Carl D Bradley Rogers City Mich, photo by UpNorth Memories/Don Harrison

Every year, I revisit the story of the Edmund Fitzgerald on November 10th. I do this because I remember the ferocity of the winds on the day of the wreck vividly from my childhood, because as a Michigander Lightfoot’s song is probably coded in my DNA by now, and also because it’s very popular with readers. Nonetheless, the feature Should musicians decide the shipwrecks we know? from IPR News Radio by Peter Payette & Morgan Springer definitely struck a chord. There are thousands of ships that have gone down the world’s eighth sea, and so many families that have felt the loss when a sailor doesn’t return from one of the most dangerous jobs there is. We’d do well to remember some of the others as well!

On this day in 1958, my vote for the most devastating Great Lakes shipwreck of the modern era took place. 33 of 35 crew members perished in the wreck, and 23 of them were from the town of Rogers City that boasted a population of less than 4000 people. The Presque Isle County Historical Museum’s website for the Steamer Carl D. Bradley tells the tale of the wreck of the Bradley:

The steamer was 638 feet long overall, with a 65-foot beam, a depth of 33 feet and a cargo capacity of 14,000 tons of crushed stone. The unloading boom was 160 feet long. The engineering and propulsion plant on the Carl D. Bradley was similar to that on the T.W. Robinson which was built two years before the Carl D. Bradley.

…The Carl D. Bradley, traveling light departed Buffington, Indiana around 9:30 pm, Monday, November 17, and headed up Lake Michigan bound for the Port of Calcite. Roland Bryan, a sailor since age fourteen, was the master. This trip was the last for the season and the steamer was going home. The Bradley never made it. In less than 24 hours the Carl D. Bradley was on the bottom of Lake Michigan and 33 of the 35-man crew were dead or missing.

When the vessel left Buffington, the winds were blowing up to 35 miles per hour from the south. The storm that was about to engulf the Bradley was developing over the plains when a cold front from the north met a warm front over the plains. The temperature in Chicago had dropped about 20 degrees that day. The forecast warned of gale winds. The crew prepared for severe weather by securing the unloading boom and the hatches. The steamer followed the route up the Wisconsin shore to Cana Island then changed course and cut across Lake Michigan toward Lansing Shoal. As the wind velocity increased, the crew filled the ballast tanks to maximum practical condition. By 4:00 pm of the next day, the 18th, the winds had reached 65 miles per hour. Even though the lake was rough and the winds high, the boat rode the heavy seas with no hint of the laboring.

Captain Bryan had asked the cooks to serve an early dinner. He knew the turn from Lake Michigan toward Lake Huron would put heavy weather broadside of the vessel. He wanted to give the mess crew the opportunity to clean up and secure before turning. The mess room was full of crewmembers anticipating going home.

About 5:30 pm First Mate Elmer Flemming radioed Calcite that the Bradley would arrive at 2:00 am. Then a “loud thud” was heard. In the pilothouse Captain Bryan and Flemming looked aft and saw the stern sag. Flemming immediately sent a distress signal over the radio. “Mayday! Mayday! This is the Carl D. Bradley. Our position is approximately twelve miles southwest of Gull Island. We are in serious trouble! We’re breaking up!” Captain Bryan sounded the general alarm, signaled the engine room to stop the ship, and blew the whistle to abandon ship. The power system failed and the lights in the bow section went out. The Bradley heaved upward near amidships and broke in two. The forward section rolled over and sank. The stern end plunged to the bottom. Within a few minutes the Carl D. Bradley was gone.

Read on for much more including theories of how the ship sank and the story of how deckhand Frank Mays & Elmer Flemming survived the wreck. At the website you’ll also find some cool old photos of the ship, newspaper clippings and photos of the crewmen lost at sea. The Wikipedia entry for the Carl D Bradley is particularly good as well with a lot more details!

This trailer for November Requiem, a DVD about the Carl D Bradley, the impact on Rogers City and the dive to the Bradley:

View Don’s photo big as the Bradley, check out more of his freighter postcards & pics, and friend him up on Facebook for lots more great old photos of Michigan.

PS: I added a new category that I somehow didn’t have already: Michigan shipwrecks – enjoy!

PPS: Apparently great minds this alike – check this out from today’s Interlochen Public Radio!

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

SS Edmund Fitzgerald Underway

SS Edmund Fitzgerald Underway, photo via Wikimedia Commons

I went and bought all of the old newspapers, got everything in chronological order, and went ahead and did it because I already had a melody in my mind. It was from an old Irish dirge that I heard when I was about three and a half years old. I think it was one of the first pieces of music that registered to me as being a piece of music. That’s where the melody comes from, from an old Irish folk song.
~Gordon Lightfoot on The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

40 years ago today, Michigan’s most remembered shipwreck took place. A big part of this is certainly Gordon Lightfoot’s signature ballad The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. The song – familiar to almost every Michigander – seems to memorialize more than simply the 29 men who perished in that horrible storm. There is certainly no better video of this song than this one crafted by Joseph Fulton featuring footage of the Fitz that you’ve probably never seen. It starts out with Walter Cronkite’s Harry Reasoner’s news report from November 11, 1975 and just gets better from there – definitely worth your time!

mLive has an article about how & why Gordon Lightfoot wrote ‘The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald’ that you should check out. It includes a nice little video where he shares how he’s edited the live lyrics to reflect what’s been learned about the sinking of the ship. They got Lightfoot’s account of  the writing of the song from the songwriter’s Ask Me Anything on Reddit, an interesting look inside of the mind of a thoughtful and talented songwriter.

I made some minor corrections to today’s photo to get the colors a little closer to those of the Fitz. View it big as the Fitz and see more at Edmund Fitzgerald images at Wikmedia.

There more ships and more shipwrecks on Michigan in Pictures.

Continue reading The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

The Indian Drum

petoskey-breakwall-wave

Petoskey Breakwall, photo by Julie A. Christiansen

Earlier this week I posted about The Crooked Tree. While August isn’t yet shipwreck season in Michigan, the post reminded me of the 1915 novel by William MacHarg & Edwin Balmer set in the same region called The Indian Drum. The whole book is available online at Project Gutenberg (hooray for free books!). It begins:

Near the northern end of Lake Michigan, where the bluff-bowed ore-carriers and the big, low-lying, wheat-laden steel freighters from Lake Superior push out from the Straits of Mackinac and dispute the right of way, in the island divided channel, with the white-and-gold, electric lighted, wireless equipped passenger steamers bound for Detroit and Buffalo, there is a copse of pine and hemlock back from the shingly beach. From this copse—dark, blue, primeval, silent at most times as when the Great Manitou ruled his inland waters—there comes at time of storm a sound like the booming of an old Indian drum. This drum beat, so the tradition says, whenever the lake took a life; and, as a sign perhaps that it is still the Manitou who rules the waters in spite of all the commerce of the cities, the drum still beats its roll for every ship lost on the lake, one beat for every life.

So—men say—they heard and counted the beatings of the drum to thirty-five upon the hour when, as afterward they learned, the great steel steamer Wenota sank with twenty-four of its crew and eleven passengers; so—men say—they heard the requiem of the five who went down with the schooner Grant; and of the seventeen lost with the Susan Hart; and so of a score of ships more. Once only, it is told, has the drum counted wrong.

At the height of the great storm of December, 1895, the drum beat the roll of a sinking ship. One, two, three—the hearers counted the drum beats, time and again, in their intermitted booming, to twenty-four. They waited, therefore, for report of a ship lost with twenty-four lives; no such news came. The new steel freighter Miwaka, on her maiden trip during the storm with twenty-five—not twenty-four—aboard never made her port; no news was ever heard from her; no wreckage ever was found. On this account, throughout the families whose fathers, brothers, and sons were the officers and crew of the Miwaka, there stirred for a time a desperate belief that one of the men on the Miwaka was saved; that somewhere, somehow, he was alive and might return. The day of the destruction of the Miwaka was fixed as December fifth by the time at which she passed the government lookout at the Straits; the hour was fixed as five o’clock in the morning only by the sounding of the drum.

The region, filled with Indian legend and with memories of wrecks, encourages such beliefs as this. To northward and to westward a half dozen warning lights—Ile-aux-Galets (“Skilligalee” the lake men call it), Waugaushance, Beaver, and Fox Islands—gleam spectrally where the bone-white shingle outcrops above the water, or blur ghostlike in the haze; on the dark knolls topping the glistening sand bluffs to northward, Chippewas and Ottawas, a century and a half ago, quarreled over the prisoners after the massacre at Fort Mackinac; to southward, where other hills frown down upon Little Traverse Bay, the black-robed priests in their chapel chant the same masses their predecessors chanted to the Indians of that time. So, whatever may be the origin of that drum, its meaning is not questioned by the forlorn descendants of those Indians, who now make beadwork and sweet-grass baskets for their summer trade, or by the more credulous of the white fishermen and farmers; men whose word on any other subject would receive unquestioning credence will tell you they have heard the drum.

Read on at Project Gutenberg.

Julie took this shot back in November of 2013. You can view it bigger, see more in her This & That slideshow and also check out this video from the day.

More Michigan shipwreck lore on Michigan in Pictures.

Shipwreck Saturday: The Wreck of the Minnehaha

Taking on Water

Taking on Water, photo by Aaron Springer

“She was built in 1880 [by Linn & Craig in Gibralter, Michigan] and has been unfortunate from the start. Two years ago [in 1891] she was wrecked near Detour [at the north end of Lake Huron], and remained on the rocks all winter, being abandoned to the underwriters, who finally rescued the wreck and sold it.”
~ Buffalo Evening News Monday, October 16, 1893

Historic Arcadia Michigan tells the tale of The Wreck of the Minnehaha:

In October of 1893, the steam barge Henry J. Johnson was towing the Minnehaha from Chicago bound for Point Edward at the south end of Lake Huron with 58,000 bushels of corn. At 7:30 PM on October 13, the two ships found themselves off Point Betsie facing 90 mile per hour gale force winds. They tried to find shelter behind the Manitou Islands, but at dawn the next day, they were still south of Sleeping Bear Point fighting high winds and waves to stay out of shallow water.

Captain Benniteau of the Johnson decided to turn the ships south and head to Frankfort, the nearest refuge. However, somewhere near Frankfort high waves crashed over the Minnehaha’s deck, smashed two hatch covers, and began filling the hold with water. William Parker, captain of the Minnehaha, realizing his ship was in serious trouble, sent up distress signals, released the tow lines, and headed for the beach. There was nothing the crew of the Johnson could do but avoid the same shallow water.

The Minnehaha ran aground about a quarter of a mile offshore between Burnham and Arcadia. To avoid the waves sweeping the decks, all but one member of the crew, who drowned trying to swim to shore, climbed into the ship’s rigging. As the ship was breaking up, the captain called to the crew to grab whatever would float and go over the side anyway. But only the captain made it to shore safely. One crew member made it to a pier, but was too tired to hold onto a pole used to try to pull him to safety.

Read on for much more including photos of the Minnehaha.

Check out Aaron’s photo bigger where he also has a pic of the wreck in calm water and see many more of his great photos of Lake Michigan.

More Michigan shipwrecks on Michigan in Pictures!