Tom's blog

The Armistice Day Storm of November 11, 1940, was one of the worst storms in the recorded history of Lake Michigan. In all, the storm claimed 5 vessels and 66 lives. The storm hit late Monday afternoon, November 11th, with winds of hurricane proportions. The winds struck suddenly from the southwest at about 2:30 p.m. and were accompanied by drenching rain, which later changed to snow. The winds reached peak velocities of 75 miles per hour, the highest in local maritime history. 

Some of the vessels affected were: CITY OF FLINT 32: Beached at Ludington, no damage. Jens Vevang, relief captain, in command. Her regular captain, Charles Robertson, was on shore leave. Also: PERE MARQUETTE 21: Blown into a piling at Ludington, no damage, captained by Arthur Altschwager. She had 5 passengers aboard. CITY OF SAGINAW 31: Arrived Milwaukee 6 hours late with over a foot of water in her hull. The wireless aerial was missing and her Seagate was smashed by the waves. She was captained by Ed Cronberg. Ann Arbor carferry WABASH: A railcar broke loose from its moorings on her car deck and rolled over, nearly crushing a crewman. The steamer NOVADOC: Ran aground at Juniper Beach, South of Pentwater, Michigan. Two crewmen (cooks) drowned when the ship broke in half. Seventeen crewmen, found huddled in the pilothouse, was rescued by Captain Clyde Cross and his 2 crewmen, Gustave Fisher and Joe Fontane of the fishing tug THREE BROTHERS. CONNEAUT of 1916, ran hard aground on Lansing Shoal near Manistique, Michigan, on Lake Michigan. She reportedly had lost her propeller and rudder. Two days later she was pulled off. The SINALOA had taken on a load of sand near Green Island and was heading for Chicago through Death's Door on Wisconsin's Door Peninsula when the November 11th Armistice Day storm of 1940, struck in upper Lake Michigan. During the storm, the SINALOA lost her rudder. The anchor was dropped but her anchor cable parted. In this helpless condition, she ran aground at Sac Bay on Michigan's Garden Peninsula. Fortunately, the stricken vessel was close to shore where the Coast Guard was able to rescue the entire crew. Declared a constructive total loss, her owner collected the insurance and forfeited the vessel to the Roen Salvage Co.

The EDMUND FITZGERALD foundered on Lake Superior during a severe storm November 10, 1975, at approximately 7:10 p.m. about 17 miles north-northwest of Whitefish Point, Michigan, at position 47 0'N by 85 7'W in Canadian waters. 

On 7 November 1893, ALBANY (steel propeller package freighter, 267 foot, 1,918 gross tons, built-in 1884, at Wyandotte, Michigan) collided with the iron freighter PHILADELPHIA in a thick fog. PHILADELPHIA took ALBANY in tow to try to save her, but she sank a few miles off Pointe aux Barques, Michigan. Her crew transferred to PHILADELPHIA, but they soon had to abandon her too since she also sank. Eight lives were lost, presumably when one of the lifeboats was run down by the still running but abandoned PHILADELPHIA. 


On 06 November 1880, the W. R. HANNA (2-mast scow-schooner, 86 foot, 103 gross tons, built-in 1857), carrying 1,600 tamarack railroad ties to Toledo, sank in Lake Huron in a snowstorm. She sprang a leak off Pointe aux Barques and filled so fast that the pump was of no use. She broached to and rolled over when about 5 miles north of Sand Beach, Michigan, (now Harbor Beach). s the sunset the snowstorm turned into a blizzard. The icy waves swept over the hull while the crew clung on as best they could. Four hours later, they drifted past Sand Beach, not 500 feet from the breakwater. They shouted for help, saw lights moving here and there on the breakwater, but no help came. When the wind shifted and started to blow the vessel out into the lake, the skipper cut away the weather lanyards and the vessel righted herself and they dropped the anchor. The weather was freezing cold, and there was no dry place left. The cabin was gone and the only spot out of the water was on one side forward - a space about four feet wide by ten feet long. The waves kept washing over the waterlogged vessel, drenching the crew. The crew survived through the night. Heavy snow kept falling, cutting visibility to almost zero. Finally, at 10 a.m., the following morning, the storm broke and the propeller H. LUELLA WORTHINGTON (wooden propeller freighter, 148 foot, 375 gross tons, built-in 1880, at Lorain, Ohio), which was in the harbor, saw the wreck and rescued the crew. The skipper of the WORTHINGTON stated that he had heard the cries of the crew throughout the night, but couldn't navigate in the blinding snowstorm. He was awake all night waiting for the storm to break so he could rescue the crew. 


On 02 Nov 1862, BAY STATE (wooden propeller, 137 foot, 372 tons, built in 1852, at Buffalo, New York) was bound for Lake Erie ports from Oswego, New York when she broke up offshore in a terrific gale in the vicinity of Oswego. All 22 onboard, including six passengers, lost their lives. The shoreline was strewn with her wreckage for miles. 


1912: The barge P.B. LOCKE, undertow of the JUNO, was lost in a storm on Lake Ontario en route from Pointe Anne to Toronto. 


On 31 October 1821, WALK-IN-THE-WATER (wooden side-wheeler, 135 foot, 339 tons, built-in 1818, at Black Rock [Buffalo], New York) was wrecked on Point Abino, on the Canadian shore of Lake Erie during a storm. She was the first steam-powered vessel above Niagara and her frequent comings and goings during her career were very much in the newspapers in Detroit but her loss was not mentioned not at all since this steamer was virtually the only source of news from the east. Her engine was installed by Robert Fulton himself. After the wreck, it went into the steamer SUPERIOR and later ran a lumber mill in Saginaw, Michigan. 


1980: The wooden-hulled former coastal freighter AVALON VOYAGER II, enroute to Owen Sound for planned use as a restaurant, had pump problems, lost power and struck bottom off Cape Hurd. The anchors failed to hold. The ship drifted into Hay Bay and stranded again. All on board were saved but the ship was a total loss. 


1980: The wooden-hulled former coastal freighter AVALON VOYAGER II, enroute to Owen Sound for planned use as a restaurant, had pump problems, lost power and struck bottom off Cape Hurd. The anchors failed to hold. The ship drifted into Hay Bay and stranded again. All on board were saved but the ship was a total loss. 


1924: GLENORCHY sank in Lake Huron, six miles ESE of Harbor Beach after a collision with the LEONARD B. MILLER. Dense fog mixing with smoke from forest fires were blamed for the accident. All onboard were saved. No lives were lost but the GLENORCHY sank and the estimated damage to the two vessels was $600,000. 


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