Photo Mosiac NOAA
  • Steamer
  • 165ffw 55m
  • 200ft Length
  • Thunder Bay,
  • N44°57.890′ W83° 06.236′

Chronological History #

  • 1863, Oct 6 Enrolled Cleveland, OH; pewabic is indian word for iron, ran on Lake Superior Line.
  • 1865, May 8 Readmeasured Cleveland, OH 198 X 31 X 20.6′, 979.07 gross tons.
  • 1865, May 9 Change home port to Detroit, MI.
  • 1865, Aug 9 Sank Lake Huron; one of worst disasters in history of Great Lakes.

3D Model by NOAA #

The Pewabic ran from Cleveland to Lake Superior ports. It was two years old when it sank off Thunder Bay in a collision with the steamer Meteor. Steaming southward, it headed close enough to the Meteor to pass mail and news between the two ships, but the Pewabic unexplainably cut across the Meteor’s bow making a collision unavoidable. The ship suffered a large hole in the port bow and sank within minutes taking at least 33 passengers and crewmen. Several attempts were later made to retrieve the valuable copper cargo, using diving bells, clamshells, and dynamite. They left the hull intact, but all of the cabins were destroyed.

David Swayze Shipwreck File

  • PEWABIC
  • Other names:  none
  • Official no. :  none
  • Type at loss:  propeller, wood, passenger & package freight
  • Build info:  1863, Peck & Masters, Cleveland
  • Specs:  200 ft., 997 t.
  • Date of loss:  1865, Aug 9
  • Place of loss:  off Thunder Bay, MI, 7 mi from Alpena
  • Lake: Huron
  • Type of loss:  collision
  • Loss of life:  75 to 100 (additionally, at least 10 divers have lost their lives on her)
  • Carrying:  copper ingots, native copper, iron ore, misc
  • Detail: Collided almost bows-on with her sister ship METEOR in a passing error and sank quickly.  The two boats may have been passing very closely to exchange mail and were pulled together by suction. METEOR loitered to pick up survivors, even though she was sinking herself. Owner: Lake Superior Line. Master: Capt. Geo. McKay. The master of the METEOR was Capt. Thomas Wilson and the two were later business associates.
  • She has been mostly stripped of cargo and fittings in a long succession of salvage dives, which have been regularly made on her since at least 1880. One salvage project in 1897 used dynamite and a diving bell to take thousands of pounds of pure copper masses off her.

Violent storms, ice, and fog claimed thousands of ships on the Great Lakes. The loss of the steamer Pewabic due to a collision with its sister ship Meteor, however, resulted from bad decisions, not bad weather. The sister ships Pewabic and Meteor regularly passed each other between Lakes Superior and Erie, often exchanging news and mail. On the calm evening of August 9, 1865, this meeting proved tragic. A few miles south of Thunder Bay Island, Pewabic’s wheelsman suddenly turned his vessel into the path of the oncoming Meteor. Meteor’s heavy bow cut a huge gash into the side of Pewabic. Some passengers leaped to Meteor, but within minutes Pewabic vanished beneath the waves.

Although Meteor rescued many of the estimated 150 passengers, at least 35 drowned in Thunder Bay’s worst maritime disaster. Today Pewabic is a gravesite and silent memorial to those who died in its sinking and salvage. P

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