Shipwrecks of the Great Lakes

History of the Great Lakes

The Great Lakes in the United States are the largest freshwater system in the world and can be seen from outer space, but there have been hundreds of shipwrecks over the past 200 years. The lakes include; Lake Ontario (the French Lac de Frontenac), Erie, Huron, Michigan and Superior. In addition, there is the St. Lawrence Seaway, which connects the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean and opened in 1959. The seaway was first explored in the 1500s. The border between Canada and the United States runs through the middle of the Great Lakes except for Lake Michigan and much of the St. Lawrence Seaway. The border was established during the Revolutionary war, although there were still border disputes, which continued for some years after the war. The War of 1812 was the last conflict on the lakes

Map of the Great Lakes

Source

Facts about the Great Lakes

The Great Lakes contain approximately 21% of the world’s surface fresh water and is a 2300 marine highway from the St. Lawrence Seaway to the Lakes. Many major cities were founded on the lakes for purposes of shipping, such as Chicago, Cleveland, Buffalo, Green Bay, Toronto and Duluth, which is the Great Lakes “bulk cargo capital”. Lake Erie is the shallowest lake, which makes storms more dangerous for ships, and Lake Superior is the largest lake. There are 35,000 islands throughout the lakes with the largest being Manitoulin Island in Lake Huron which is the largest island in an inland body of fresh water in the world. There also numerous rivers and canals running off the Great Lakes.

The early history of shipping was very dangerous as there have been hundreds of ships lost in storms. Storms arise very quickly in the lakes and one reason is because they are affected by three prominent air systems:

  • Winter brings the very dry and cold arctic system from the North
  • Another dry system is warm and comes from the Pacific West
  • A wet, tropical system comes from the south, the Gulf of Mexico

Mysteries of the Great Lakes

First Known Shipwreck

French explorer, La Salle, built the first known ship to navigate the Great Lakes in 1679, which was called the ‘Griffon.’ Not many details are known about the trip, but it is thought that the ship was launched into the Niagara River and headed along the coast of Lake Erie traveling all the way to Green Bay where La Salle loaded her with furs that were purchased from the Indians. The Griffon was never heard of again, so it is assumed it sunk in a gale with the entire crew.

Another Ship Lost at Sea

source stlawrence.com
source stlawrence.com

First Steamer - Also Shipwrecked

History records the first steamer to be built was “Walk-in-the-Water.” in Buffalo in 1818. It is known, however, that two steamers were built in 1616 on Lake Ontario, but their operations were confined to Lake Ontario, so they were not considered Great Lakes steamers. " Walk– In–the–Water” was also driven ashore during a gale on Lake Erie in 1821. Although shipping continued from that time until now, there were many ships that lie on the bottom of one of the lakes.

Edmund Fitzgerald

source Wickimedia
source Wickimedia

SS Edmund Fitzgerald

Certainly the SS Edmund Fitzgerald is one of the best-known catastrophes on the Great Lakes. The SS Edmund Fitzgerald was a Great Lakes freighter, which sank in Lake Superior in a storm on November 10,1975, with the loss of the entire crew. When she was launched in 1958 she was the largest boat on the Great Lakes and remains to this day the largest boat that has sunk. For 17 years she had carried taconite, which is the variety of iron formation consisting of 15% iron and sedimentary rock and the iron minerals are inter-layered with Quartz, chert or carbonate from mines near Duluth, Minnesota. This ship was considered a workhorse, setting seasonal haul records six times.

Boat watchers loved the Fitzgerald due to her size, her record-breaking performance and her DJ Captain, as he piped music through the intercom all over the ship day and night. The day she went down she was fully loaded and was caught in a massive winter storm with near hurricane force winds and waves up to 35 feet high. No bodies were recovered from her crew of 29. At the request of the families the bronze bell was recovered by the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society. It is not really known exactly why she went down but her sinking changed the regulations for Great Lakes shipping. The new regulations included mandatory survival suits, depth finders, positioning systems, increased freeboard, and more frequent inspections of the vessels

Lost Ships V: The November Witch

Sailor's Prayer

Lord, as I stand on the rolling deck

To view the restless sea
With its wide expanse of darkened sky,

You seem so far from me.

Intrepid youth should feel no fear,

But I have a load of care
For the safety of our ship and men.

Lord, hear my earnest prayer:

That I be true to every task;
May no fault lie with me.
Whatever danger may arise,
As we sail the raging sea.

May I be calm and know that You
Can still the wind and wave,
And be assured in perfect trust

That You have the power to save.

When the moon sheds beams from a starlit sky,

I feel near to You again,
For the same moon shines on my loved ones, too,

And I thank You, Lord......Amen.

Written by Mark Bradley’s father who was concerned about safety for his son

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald -Gordon Lightfoot

Opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway 1959

source hellespont.com
source hellespont.com

Huntington Beach, Ohio on Lake Erie

source citydata.com
source citydata.com | Source

In Conclusion

Shipping cargo on the Great Lakes has suffered along with most businesses in our current economy with 2009, being the lowest volume for iron ore in 71 years and the worst year for coal in 77 years also. Limestone was down to its lowest level since 1938. If manufacturing doesn't improve, neither will the demand for these minerals.

Sailing the Great Lakes is still a dangerous job, although certainly the many improvements due to new regulations and stronger vessels have improved the situation. Better communication is also a help. There are more than 2000 vessels sailing the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence and this does not take into account recreational boaters. The one thing you cannot control is the storms.

However, the lakes are beautiful and people also use the beaches in the summertime. I grew up in Lakewood, Ohio and I got my worst sunburn ever on the shore of Lake Erie at Huntington Beach when I was a teen. I recently visited the area and it is still beautiful.

© 2011 Pamela Oglesby

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Comments 84 comments

breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 5 years ago

Fabulous and informative hub. The wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald Is the only wreck I am familiar with. I always learn something from your writing. Up and useful and awesome too!


K9keystrokes profile image

K9keystrokes 5 years ago from Northern, California

I have long found the folk song about the Edmund Fitzgerald to be among my favorites. It is interesting to learn a little more about that ship and some other Great Lakes Shipwrecks. As always, a nicely presented hub Pam. Hope You are doing well. Up and useful.

K9


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States Author

POP, I'm glad you enjoyed the hub and I certainly appreciate your comments.

K9jkeystrokes, It is one of my favorites also. I am doing much better, thank you. I appreciate your comments.


SubRon7 profile image

SubRon7 5 years ago from eastern North Dakota

Outstanding hub, Pamela99. I love Gordon Lightfoot's song, and just once I visited Duluth. I wanted the sunrise over the lake but it was cloudy, but don't you know, just at sunrise the clouds parted right at the horizon and gave me the photo, then closed again. If I can learn how to get photos off transparencies I will sometime upload it to a hub. Thanks for the inspiration.


Mentalist acer profile image

Mentalist acer 5 years ago from A Voice in your Mind!

My older brother Mike was on station on the great lakes near Chicago while in the Coast Guard when the Edmund went down.;)


drbj profile image

drbj 5 years ago from south Florida

I spent my childhood living less than 500 feet from the shore of Lake Michigan (Chicago), Pamela, but never knew all this remarkable history of the Great Lakes. Thank you for your estimable research and sharing all these facts with us.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States Author

SunRon, I would love to see your picture. I have never visited Diluth. I am glad you enjoyed the hub and I appreciate your comments.

Acer, I'm sure he will never forget that event. Thanks for your comments.

drbj, You grew up in the windy city and Cleveland is also quite windy especially in the winter and so cold. I very much appreciate your comments.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

Very nice Hub and well written!


RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey

Very interesting to learn more about the Great Lakes shipping history. Love this type hub! Voted up.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States Author

Will, Thank you for your comments.

RTalloni, I'm glad you enjoyed the hub and I appreciate your comments.


Ken Barton profile image

Ken Barton 5 years ago

Great Hub on the Great Lakes Shipwrecks. Living near to Lake Erie my wife and I love to go to the lake to pick up 'Beach Glass', which presumably comes from glass once carried on board ships that sunk.


The Frog Prince profile image

The Frog Prince 5 years ago from Arlington, TX

Wonderful Hub Pamela. As soon as I saw the title I thought about Gordon Lightfoot and The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Here's his version. Great song!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9vST6hVRj2A

The Frog


rpalulis profile image

rpalulis 5 years ago from NY

Wow 21% of the worlds surface, these are fun and amazing facts. Very interesting hub, great job Pamela! Voted up and awesome.


samsons1 profile image

samsons1 5 years ago from Tennessee

Well written and researched, full of interesting and insightful facts and the descriptive video by Gordon Lightfoot is everyones' favorite. Voted up and beautiful...


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States Author

Ken, I grew up by Lake Erie and I had forgotten about beach glass. Thanks so much for your comments.

Frog Prince, I love that song. Thanks for your comment.

Rob, I'm glad you enjoyed the hub and I appreciate your comments.

samson, Thank you so much for your comments and I'm glad that you enjoyed the hub.


KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

KoffeeKlatch Gals 5 years ago from Sunny Florida

Marvelous hub Pamela. Fascinating information. I especially liked the sailor prayer. Rated up and awesome.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States Author

KKGals, I'm glad you enjoyed the hub and I like the prayer also. I've keep it in a doc file for a long time. Thanks for your comments.


Susan Miles profile image

Susan Miles 5 years ago

Great hub on the Great Lakes! I've spent time at Lake Michigan and it's truly beautiful.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States Author

Susan, Thanks you so much for your comments.


always exploring profile image

always exploring 5 years ago from Southern Illinois

Oh that poem written by the Sailor's Father is beautiful. Thank you for a very interesting story. I would love to see the Great Lakes, maybe someday.

Cheers


Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 5 years ago from Wales

This is such a well presented and informed hub.I was gripped from beginning to end.

I vote all the way up here and take care,my friend.

Eiddwen.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States Author

always exploring, I'm glad you enjoyed the hub. I hope you do get to see the lakes but try to go in the summer as that cold wind that blows off the lakes in the winter is truly freezing. I appreciate your comments.

Eiddwen, You are a sweet friend and I sure appreciate your comments.


HealthyHanna profile image

HealthyHanna 5 years ago from Utah

Isn't treasure hunting exciting! Treasure comes in more forms than jewels and gold. Loved the hub.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States Author

Hanna, Yes,it is. Thanks for your comments.


saddlerider1 profile image

saddlerider1 5 years ago

Wow, what a wonderful hub of the Great Lakes and all the history behind it. I am made very aware of the Edmund Fitzgerald by our Canadian singer Gordon Lightfoot making it so famous in song. The mysteries that surround the Great lakes are legend.

As a former 18 Wheeler for 8 years I drove the Michigan and Superior sides often. I have seen how dangerous the lakes can be, I have witnessed the gales from the Superior with heavy rain, snow and winds that often blocked the Highway 17 I traveled across to get across the Superior.

Thanks again, I loved reading the history and what fantastic videos you embedded. Fantastic, bravo....hugs


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States Author

saddlerider, I am glad you enjoyed the hub. You are certainly familiar with the Great Lakes and their gales. Thank you so much for your comment.


Truckstop Sally profile image

Truckstop Sally 5 years ago

I have never had the pleasure of seeing the Great Lakes. It is hard to imagine a lake so large to have waves! I would love to experience all the postives they have to offer.


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 5 years ago from United States

I very much enjoyed this because I grew up on Lake Superior. Thank you for writing this intriguing article! It brought back a lot of memories.


dearabbysmom profile image

dearabbysmom 5 years ago from Indiana

Thank you for writing about such an interesting topic! One of my favorite museums to date has been the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum at Whitefish Point, MI on Lake Superior. Very good hub, rated up!


RedElf profile image

RedElf 5 years ago from Canada

Voted up and rated "Awesome" - the Edmund Fitzgerald is a haunting ballad, and an old favorite of mine. Thanks for this most interesting hub.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States Author

Sally, Thank you so much for your comments.

Tom, I'm glad you enjoyed the hub and I appreciate your comments.

dearabbysmom, I have never been able to go to the museum but would love to. Thank you so much for your comments. Can

RedElf, It is one of my favorite ballads also. I'm glad you enjoyed the hub. Thank you so much for your comments.


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 5 years ago from malang-indonesia

Wow..wow...wow. This was so beautiful. You have done a great research about this lakes. I can see how this lake so mysterious. Thanks for writing and share with us. I give my VOTE to you. Have a good day!

Prasetio


MosLadder profile image

MosLadder 5 years ago from Irvine, CA

This was great info! Thanks for writing such an engaging piece.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States Author

prasetio, I am glad to see you enjoyed the hub. Thanks for your comments. Love and Peace.

Mosadder, I am also glad you enjoyed the hub and I appreciate your comments.


Cagsil profile image

Cagsil 5 years ago from USA or America

Excellent writing for your readers. I managed to learn a couple of things I didn't know before reading. That's always a good thing. :) Thumbs up! :)


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States Author

Ray, Thanks so much for your comments as I take them as a compliment.


anglnwu profile image

anglnwu 5 years ago

Good information. Love the Sailor's Prayer--only God can calm raging seas (lakes included). Thanks for sharing and rated up.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States Author

anginwu, I agree the prayer is special also. I appreciate you comments.


Lisa HW profile image

Lisa HW 5 years ago from Massachusetts

Pamela, I'm glad I came and read your Hub. It never even occurred to me that there have been shipwrecks in the Great Lakes.


kannoujiatapas profile image

kannoujiatapas 5 years ago

Great informative hub and interesting facts about lakes.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States Author

Lisa, I'm glad you enjoyed the hub and I appreciate your comments.

kannoujiatapas, Thank you so much for your comments.


livewithrichard profile image

livewithrichard 5 years ago from Charleston, SC

Great hub and an often overlooked area of shipwrecks. I live in Chicago and have heard many stories of shipwrecks on Lake Michigan and have friends that have dived on some. When you hear the word 'lake' you don't really associate it with a shipwreck but our Great Lakes are like Sea's and are huge. Thanks for the hub.


Just Ask Susan profile image

Just Ask Susan 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

Pamela Fantastic hub. The Great Lakes are beautiful and powerful.

Up, useful and awesome!


WoodsmensPost profile image

WoodsmensPost 5 years ago from Arizona

Ships,Shipwrecks and the Great Lakes are some of my favorite history subjects, that hold my interest. Great info hub Pamela99, thanks for writing a hub like this.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States Author

livewithrichard, As I grew up on Lake Erie I knew there had been ship wrecks but I didn't know there were so many until I researched information for this hub. Thanks for your comment.

Susan, Thank your for your comments.

WoodsmensPost, I'm glad you enjoyed the hub and I appreciate your comments.


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 5 years ago from London, UK

As always you have done a fantastic job and a splendid hub. I have been to Lake Ontario so it was even more interesting. Thank you.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States Author

Hello, I'm glad you visited the area as the lakes are beautiful. Thank you for your comments.


enlight your soul profile image

enlight your soul 5 years ago from Bangladesh

So nice hub.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States Author

enlight your soul, Thank you so much for your comment.


RevLady profile image

RevLady 5 years ago from Lantana, Florida

Very interesting and compelling hub. Thank you.

Forever His


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States Author

Rev Lady, I am glad you enjoyed the hub. Thank you for your comments.


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 5 years ago from Texas

The Great Lakes are a force to be reckoned with when it comes to the onslaught of early winter storms. The Fitzgerald is certainly an undying monument to forces which come with these storms. Weather deserves our utmost respect on both land and sea and the graveyard of the Great Lakes attests to that reality. Good write! WB


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States Author

Wayne, I agree that weather deserves our utmost respect on land and sea. We sure have seen that lately. Thanks for the comments.


cardelean profile image

cardelean 5 years ago from Michigan

Very informative and well put together hub. You provided some great information about my great state of Michigan! There is also a shipwreck tour that takes place on Lake Superior from Munising, MI. I did the tour a few years back with my husband and daughter and it was really neat.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States Author

cardelean, I would like to take that tour. Thank you for your comments.


Bookmark 5 years ago

Great informative hub and interesting facts about lakes.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States Author

Bookmark, Thank you for your comments.


DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 5 years ago from Oakley, CA

Thanks for sharing such an interesting article. I have learned some things, so satisfied my "daily learn-something quota." ;-)

I remember in grade school, a mnemonic device we were taught for learning the names of the lakes--in a different sequence than you presented: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior. The trick? Recited in that order, the initials spell "HOMES."

Voted up!


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States Author

DzyMsLizzy, I remember learning that too. I'm glad you enjoyed the hub. Thanks for your comments.


Support Med. profile image

Support Med. 5 years ago from Michigan

Thanks for sharing this historic knowledge. v/r


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States Author

Support Med, Thank you for your comment.


crystolite profile image

crystolite 5 years ago from Houston TX

Well written and fascinating hub.A very interesting history about the Great Lakes Shipping.I will go for further search about this great lakes.Vote up,interesting and awesome.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States Author

crystolite, I'm so glad you enjoyed the hub and I appreciate your comments.


kenneth avery profile image

kenneth avery 5 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

Pamela....a masterpiece. Voted up and away. Marvelous text, research, and graphics. You are a God-gifted writer, Pamela. I am so glad that you are one of my followers. That makes me very happy. And I pray that you and yours have a Very Merry Christmas!


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States Author

kenneth avery, Thank you so much for your lovely comment. It is much appreciated. I also pray that you and your family will have a Very Merry Christmas.


kenneth avery profile image

kenneth avery 4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

Hi, Pamela99,

You are very welcome, for it IS the truth. And that is why Im here--to make as many people happy, if only for a moment, that would make my life useful. And you and yours have a wonderful Christmas filled with laughter, pause, silent reflection, love and the focus on Whom the holiday is about. And be safe in 2012.////Kenneth


Coolmon2009 profile image

Coolmon2009 4 years ago from Texas, USA

Impressive article; I really enjoyed the images, writing and the Edmund Fitzgerald video.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States Author

Coolmon, I am glad you enjoyed the hub and I appreciate your comments.


kenneth avery profile image

kenneth avery 4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

12/27

Hi again, Pamela...Loved the Edmund Fitzgerald photo. And this hub which you presented so well. I wanted to stop by to wish for you and yours, not only a Happy, but Safe, Prosperous, and Peaceful New Year. May all good things come to you. Sincerely, Kenneth


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States Author

kenneth, Thank you for your comments about the hub. I appreciate the wonderful wishes for the New Year and wish the same for you as well.


kenneth avery profile image

kenneth avery 4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

Dear Pamela,

today is 12/28, and YOU are very welcome for the wishes and comments for I meant every word of them. Im glad I met you on hubs in 2011. You are a blessing to my life. Im serious. God bless you and yours.

Kenneth


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States Author

Kenneth, I can't tell you how much that means to me. I am glad we met also. I haven't spent as much time on Hubpages the past few months due to other commitments but I think most of the people are great and I love your sense of humor. God Bless you and your also.


GmaGoldie profile image

GmaGoldie 4 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

Pamela99,

Fascinating. I had just heard on the radio that on November 11th there were several wreaks and tragic deaths on the waters of Lake Michigan.

Water is wonderful but like humans, it must be respected, it does have the power to destroy and take a life very readily.

Excellent article. Voted up!


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States Author

GmaGoldie, I am glad you enjoyed the article. The water on the Great Lakes can be rough and dangerous. Respect for its power is exactly right in my opinion. Thank you for your comments.


JY3502 profile image

JY3502 4 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

Was thinking of writing this article when I ran across yours in a google search. Good job Pam. Now I have to find something else to write about. LOL


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States Author

JY, I wrote this some time ago, but I grew up on the shores of Lake Erie and always knew about the Edmund Fitzgerald. I'm sure you'll find another interesting topic. I appreciate your comments.


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 3 years ago from The Beautiful South

Very interesting, glad I found this for I certainly did not know! Thank you.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

Jackie, I am glad this hub was informative to you and I appreciate your comments.


moonlake profile image

moonlake 3 years ago from America

We were just talking about Lake Superior this morning. My husband said Superior doesn't give up her dead. My husband, sons and other family members are going fishing soon on Lake Superior. What a thing for him to say just before leaving for this trip.

Enjoyed your hub. Voted up.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

Imoonlake, That is not what I would want to hear right before the fishing trip. We always worry about our loved ones. I'm glad you enjoyed the hub, and I appreciate your comments.


Pico Triano profile image

Pico Triano 2 years ago from New Brunswick, Canada

I enjoyed your hub. Have a bit of a personal connection to shipping on the Great Lakes. My father worked on the St. Lawrence seaway project back in the fifties as a labourer. Also had the pleasure of listening to a first hand account of a boat going down on Lake Huron. I'm sure there are a ton of stories to be told. I know there are over a thousand ships that sank on Lake Huron alone.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 2 years ago from United States Author

Pico, I know Lake Erie has rough waters because it is the shallowest. I am glad you enjoyed the hub, and I apprieciate your comments.


JY3502 profile image

JY3502 2 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

Very nicely done Pam!


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 2 years ago from United States Author

Jy, Glad you enjoyed it, and I appreciate your comments.

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