Showing posts with the label Great Lakes shipwrecks

Remembering a November Gale - 100 Years Later

“No lake master can recall in all his experience a storm of such unprecedented violence with such rapid changes in the direction of the wind and waves and its gusts of such fearful speed!  Storms ordinarily of that velocity do not last over four or five hours, but this storm raged for sixteen hours continuously at an average velocity of sixty miles per hour, with frequent spurts of seventy and over.”  ( From the Lake Carriers Association Report of 1914)      I’ve always been interested in Great Lakes shipwrecks and am a sucker for nautical lore, so it’s no surprise that I’m inspired to write about such things at least a couple of times per year here at [See the end of this post to find my previous shipwreck ramblings]. This week happens to mark the 100 th anniversary of an event that added many chapters to the maritime history of the Great Lakes, which is an even more fitting reason for this particular post.  Imagine 35-foot waves, whiteout blizzard co

History and Mystery Underwater

"The annals of this voracious beach! Who could write them, unless it were a shipwrecked sailor? How many who have seen it only in the midst of danger and distress, the last strip of earth which their mortal eyes beheld." -Henry David Thoreau from Cape Cod , 1865 As much as I look forward to future sailing adventures and use planning them as a means of mentally surviving the long Great Lakes winter, I also use the offseason to slow down and savor the rich history of my home waters. Part of that rich history is now protected by the West Michigan Underwater Preserve . We often look astern to see where we've sailed, look forward to see what's ahead of the bow, and look aloft to check the sky, sails, or wind indicator. But how often do we look below the water's surface? Do you ever think about the history that you're literally sailing right over the top of? I do, and I have to admit, sometimes it's spooky. The West Michigan Underwater Preserve (WMUP) beg

The Christmas Tree Ship

Lake Michigan was not feeling the Christmas spirit in November of 1912.   The big lake wasn’t giving any gifts that year, but rather was taking ships and crew to her cold depths.   Captain Herman Schuenemann knew the Great Lakes could get ornery in November, for it was in November of 1898 that his brother August was lost forever when his schooner sank in a storm near Glencoe , Illinois while attempting to deliver Christmas trees to Chicago .   August had asked Herman to join him on the ill-fated voyage, but he declined after proudly telling August that his wife was giving birth to twin daughters.   After August’s death, Herman was undaunted and carried on in the family Christmas tree business.   Herman Schuenemann became beloved by Chicago residents for brining fresh cut Christmas trees from Michigan ’s Upper Peninsula aboard sailing vessels to Chicago .   Each year the arrival of his ship in port near the Clark Street Bridge would signify the official start of the holiday s

Ghosts of the Great Lakes

Every year or so, a new lost shipwreck is discovered somewhere in the Great Lakes .   Many are remarkably well preserved because of the cold, freshwater in the Great Lakes .   With literally thousands of ships lost (some estimate as many as 8,000) in the inland seas, it's likely this trend of discovery will continue.  Perhaps the most coveted and yet to be discovered lost shipwreck in the Great Lakes is that of  Le Griffon. Le Griffon  was a French barque ( or "bark", referring to the rig which consists of multiple masts, fore-and-aft sails on the aftermost mast and square sails on all other masts) commanded by famed French explorer Robert de LaSalle.  She displaced around 40 tons and was likely only 30 to 40 feet long.   LaSalle was seeking a Northwest Passage to China for France .   Le Griffon was launched in 1679 by LaSalle as a way to control the fur trade with Native Americans in the Great Lakes region.   Le Griffon may very well be the first “ship” to have sai