Ghost Ships and other Mysterious Shipwrecks of the Great Lakes
One of the most prominent geographical features of North America, the Great Lakes played a pivotal role in the economic and industrial development of Canada and the United States. While allowing the establishment of a highly efficient transportation system, these freshwater seas have also proven particularly unforgiving when stirred up by the forces of nature. Capable of producing some of the most treacherous conditions faced by mariners anywhere on the globe, the Great Lakes have claimed thousands of vessels since the earliest days of navigation on their waters.
This book details the stories of ten vessels that met their demise without leaving a single survivor. Ranging from early wooden schooners to steel steamships, the tales included in this volume represent not only the perils faced by these vessels but also their crews prior to the advent of modern navigation equipment. While a few of their number have been uncovered through concerted search efforts, the majority of these lost ships remain elusively hidden in the watery depths of these landlocked oceans.
Among others, this book includes the loss of an early Great Lakes schooner on Lake Superior, the mysterious disappearance of a steel steamer that sparked tales of it becoming a wandering ghost ship, the unexplained sinking of two naval trawlers, a small tugboat that sailed into oblivion on Lake Erie, and a self-unloading bulk carrier that remains missing in the depths of Lake Michigan to this very day.
As one of only eleven vessels employed in trade on Lake Superior during the 1847 season, there is little doubt that the Merchant’s departure from Sault Ste. Marie that summer day attracted considerable attention among the local residents. Rounding Whitefish Point and with wind filling its sails, the schooner began heading westward across the largely uncharted lake.
Having made slow but steady progress throughout the day, the ships ran into a fall storm just after 6 o’clock that evening. As the wind from the southwest increased in intensity, heavy seas began their relentless assault against the small craft. In an effort to deal with the sudden gale, Leclerc turned the flotilla south towards the Keweenaw Peninsula to meet the rising seas. Despite encountering periods of heavy snow, the lights of the Cerisoles and Inkerman remained visible to the men on the Sebastopol’s bridge.
Even as the Andaste sailed into Lake Michigan on that fateful night, a bulletin issued by the weather service predicting the onset of the storm was working its way through the bureaucratic channels necessary for it to reach the Grand Haven Coast Guard Station. As a result, personnel at the station did not post the required gale warning flags until two hours after the steamer’s departure.
A lifelong resident of Michigan, Constance M. Jerlecki has written four books concerning the history of the state she calls home. This is her first book on Great Lakes shipwrecks.