Shipwrecks and Lost Treasures: Great Lakes: Legends and Lore, Pirates and More!

Shipwrecks and Lost Treasures: Great Lakes: Legends and Lore, Pirates and More!

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Twenty-one riveting stories and illustrations about ships that met their end in the treacherous waters of the Great Lakes, such as: British gunboat H.M.S. Speedy in 1804, American Navy brig U.S.S. Niagara in 1820, Civil War steamer Island Queen in 1864, the infamous freighter Edmund Fitzgerald in 1975, and many more!

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780762744923
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Publication date: 10/01/2007
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 232
Sales rank: 743,572
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.63(d)

About the Author

Michael J. Varhola is a freelance journalist, author or co-author of numerous books and innumerable articles, publisher of several publications, a veteran of the U.S. Army, and an avid sailor who is rated to pilot vessels up to 50 feet in length. A native of the port city of Erie, Pennsylvania, he grew up listening to stories about shipping on the Great Lakes from his father, who served as a merchant seaman aboard the S.S. North American. He lives in Springfield, Virginia. Frederick Stonehouse, noted Great Lakes maritime historian and lecturer, is author of more than 25 books.

Read an Excerpt

Shipwrecks and Lost Treasures: Great Lakes

Legends and Lore, Pirates and More!
By Varhola, Michael J.

Globe Pequot

Copyright © 2007 Varhola, Michael J.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780762744923

Benjamin Noble

Out beyond the surf, between the shore and the horizon, lies the gallant ship, Benjamin Noble, and her people … Victims not of Lake Superior but of economic ills of a year best forgotten — 1914.
— Dwight Boyer, a notional inscription for a nonexistent memorial

April 21, 1914
Captain John Eisenhardt was very apprehensive, and he knew most or all of the other seventeen men that would be making the passage with him from Conneaut, Ohio, to Duluth, Minnesota, were equally anxious.

Eisenhardt stood on the Ohio port city’s Dock Three and looked at Benjamin Noble, hull number 206240, sole vessel of the Capitol Transportation Company and named for one of its main investors. At 239 feet, the vessel was short enough to fit into the locks of the Welland Canal, which connected Lake Erie with Lake Ontario, bypassing Niagara Falls, and was hence dubbed a “canaller.” The sturdy little ship had been built in Wyandotte, Michigan, just five years earlier.

The well-liked young captain had just ordered a halt to the loading of a cargo of railway rails, and two full boxcars of them still stood on the nearby siding. For six days, he had directed the loading of the heavy steel rails, the crew painstakingly moving them aboardone at a time with the ship’s tackle. For six days, he had meticulously overseen the securing of the rails on the cargo deck, watched the men arduously nudge each rail butt-end to the one next to it with crowbars, ensured that each layer was separated by pieces of wooden blocking and had additional blocking at the ends of its rows to prevent the rails from shifting if the ship encountered heavy seas. For six days, he watched the increasing weight push his ship deeper and deeper into the cold water of the port.

Eisenhardt’s boss, J.A. Francombe, owner of the Capitol Transportation Co., had made it clear that all of the rails needed to be transported in one shipment. He knew the businessman had been busy all winter, aggressively lining up cargoes for Benjamin Noble to carry throughout the spring and summer, and that he had made the low bid on a contract to move rails from Ashtabula, Ohio, to Duluth. And he knew that the company would probably lose money if it could not fit them all on board the freighter at one time. But, with Benjamin Noble’s anchors dipping into the water, Eisenhardt had said “no more!” Mr. Francombe might not be happy, but he would be a lot less happy if his ship sank at its moorings.

Benjamin Noble rode very low in the water now, the cold waters of the lake lapping almost two feet past its normal loaded draft of 17 feet. The canaller tended to look like it was riding low anyway, as it had a fairly unique construction designed to handle loading and unloading of deck cargoes that over its four previous seasons had included coal, pulpwood, railway iron, scrap iron, and stone. Its cabins, fore and aft, were on elevated forecastle and poop decks, respectively, emphasizing the low-slung effect. Under any kind of rough seas at all, he knew its decks would be continuously awash.

There were ships, however, that would not be loaded all that year, would not be carrying cargo anywhere, would not be providing work to crews like his own or captains like himself. There was not a man signed on with Benjamin Noble that could not have been replaced with 100 others, and they all knew it; jobs were scarce in 1914, and there were innumerable sailors who would take almost any risk for the opportunity to put a deck under their feet again and get paid for it.

And this was Eisenhardt’s first command! As far as he knew, at just 31 he was the youngest lake captain working, and he was grateful for the opportunity. If he resigned his commission now, no one would ever know the circumstances — or care. He would be branded as undependable and might never command a vessel again. And, having gotten married not long before, he now had more than just himself to think about.

And so, Eisenhardt knew he had to put his fears into a watertight hold and lock them down, out of sight and apart from the thoughts he would need to safely pilot this vessel to its destination. This was Benjamin Noble’s first cruise of the season, and it had to be a success. Everything else would be easier after this.

Out of the corner of his eye, Eisenhardt could see the dock foreman sidling up to him in the twilight. He half turned to glance at the man as he stopped nearby and took a turn at surveying the overloaded vessel.

“She’s riding pretty low, skipper,” the foreman said.

Eisenhardt glanced toward the foreman and tried to keep his face from showing the irritation he felt at these words. Of course it was riding low! And he would be the one sailing out with it the next morning; if a landsman could see the problem, he most assuredly could, too. He turned back toward the ship.

“We’ll be hugging the shore the entire course,” he said, inadvertently muttering his words and feeling even as he said them that they sounded weak and hollow. He could have kept talking, but felt his face flush, and quickly turned away and walked off without saying anything more.

“Hell, he ain’t goin’ to get very far up the lakes,” one of the dock workers said when his foreman repeated the words Eisenhardt had told him.


Excerpted from Shipwrecks and Lost Treasures: Great Lakes by Varhola, Michael J. Copyright © 2007 by Varhola, Michael J.. Excerpted by permission.
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Table of Contents

Foreword (November 10, 2006; Whitefish Point, Michigan)Written at the day and place that the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald is commemorated. IntroductionAbout This BookWhat is a Shipwreck? Treasure of the Great LakesWhat passes for treasure in the Great Lakes is generally buried under hundreds of feet of water and takes the form of the cargoes carried by now-wrecked ships November GalesGreat Lakes Storm of 1913The Marysburgh VortexThis phenomenon is often described as the “Bermuda Triangle of the Great Lakes.” Modern DiscoveriesTechnological advances like sonar and improved dive capabilities have revealed much about past shipwrecks that was once simply a mystery. Chapter 1: H.M.S. Speedy (1804)The British gunboat H.M.S. Speedy sank in a blinding snowstorm in Lake Ontario with the loss of all hands, an event that changed the course of Canadian history because of the prominence of the citizens from the colony of Upper Canada lost. Chapter 2: H.M.S. Detroit (1813)Originally christened as the U.S. brig Adams, the British captured the ship, renamed it, and subsequently used it to dominate Lake Erie. Americans recaptured Detroit but could not escape with it and burned it instead.Chapter 3: U.S.S. Niagara (1820)This U.S. Navy brig served during the War of 1812 as Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry’s flagship during the Battle of Lake Erie, after the U.S.S. Lawrence was disabled by gunfire. Unlike most Great Lakes shipwrecks, it was deliberately sunk in order to preserve it and allow it to be raised again later.Chapter 4: Lady Elgin (1860)This passenger steamer was struck by another vessel while returning hundreds of people home from a political rally. It broke apart and more than 400 people perished before they could be rescued. Chapter 5: Island Queen (1864)In one of the few Civil War military actions to spill into the Great Lakes, a party of 20 Confederates led by Acting Master John Yates Beall captured two steamers and burned the Island Queen. Chapter 6: Alpena (1880)The sidewheel steamer Alpena was one of many ships wrecked in Lake Michigan during the “Big Blow” of October 1880. At least 80 people died when it went down. Chapter 7: Helena (1891)This oak-hulled steamer was struck by a steel vessel and sunk with a load of coal in 30 feet of water. It is an interesting example of a ship that was wrecked under one name, raised, repaired, and rechristened with a new name — and subsequently wrecked again (see Amboy, below). Chapter 8: Bannockburn (1902)For more than a century, the unexplained disappearance of this Montreal Transportation Co. freighter has been one of the classic “ghost ship” tale of the Great Lakes. All that was ever found of the vessel was an oar and a single life jacket with its straps tied together.Chapter 9: Thomas Wilson (1902)One of a locally developed line of “whaleback” ships, the Thomas Wilson was struck by another ship during its approach to Duluth. Both vessels were sunk as a result. Chapter 10: Amboy (1905, renamed from Helena, sunk in 1891)After being wrecked once, this ship was raised, refurbished, and relaunched with a new name. It could not escape its fate, however, and was sunk once again. Chapter 11: Mataafa (1905)After 1905, every Great Lakes captain knew the horrifying story of this vessel, which smashed into a pier and then broke in half, dooming the sailors who remained in the stern of the ship to freeze to death. Chapter 12: Kaliyuga (1905)After this freighter went missing in the Great Gale of 1905, local legends arose claiming that she could be seen moving through the fog around Thunder Bay and heard sounding distress signals on stormy nights. Chapter 13: Charles S. Price (1913)This freighter was one of a record number of ships wrecked — and its crew among a record number of men lost — in one of the worst storms to ever wrack the Great Lakes. Chapter 14: Benjamin Noble (1914)Heavily overburdened, this canaller beat the odds during a struggle of three days and was lost with all hands after coming within sight of its destination port. Chapter 15: Eastland (1915)This large passenger steamer rolled onto its side of water in the port of Chicago with nearly 3,000 people on board. Despite being close to shore and in just 20 feet of water, some 845 people were killed in the disaster. Chapter 16: SS Milwaukee (1929)Recently rediscovered and explored by divers, this shipwrecked “car ferry” went down with a full load of railway cars, most of them loaded with new Ford automobiles. Chapter 17: Wisconsin (1929) Renamed six times in its 48-year career, this liner was overwhelmed while attempting to ride out a storm and foundered off of Kenosha. Unlike many vessels that went down with all hands lost, 56 of the 76 people on board managed to survive the wreck, even though the vessel was an unrecoverable loss. Chapter 18: Anna C. Minch (1940)This steam-powered steel cargo carrier went down in a storm in Lake Michigan, taking with it all 24 crew members and a cargo of hardwood lumber. Chapter 19: SS Noronic (1949)Fire consumed this large passenger ship in Toronto Harbor, destroying it and killing as many as 139 people. Chapter 20: SS Carl D. Bradley (1958)Two sailors survived the wreck of this ship in a life raft after this self-loading freighter broke in half and went down in a powerful storm. Thirty-three of their companions perished in the disaster, only 18 of whom were ever recovered. Chapter 21: SS Edmund Fitzgerald (1975)Perhaps the most famous of all Great Lakes shipwrecks, this doomed freighter went down with all hands in a powerful freak storm. Its fate was commemorated in the melancholy and widely popular Gordon Lightfoot song, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” Appendix I: EndotesAppendix II: Glossary of Nautical TermsAppendix III: List of Shipwrecks by YearAppendix IV: Further Reading and ResourcesBooks and Other MediaMuseums and Historic SitesIndex

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