The Great Lakes Shipwreck File:
Total Losses of Great Lakes Ships 1679 - 1999
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This document is the most complete and accurate list of losses of Great Lakes commercial vessels in existence, but it may be considered to be a work in progress, since my research continues. It includes commercial vessels which were total losses or were declared total losses and later recovered, plus a few wrecks which were significant for other reasons (e.g. loss of life), but were later recovered. I am happy to share this with any and all interested parties, but as of Apr, 2000, it represents about 13 years of steady work, so if you use any of the material herein, PLEASE CREDIT to David D. Swayze, Lake Isabella, MI.
Iwelcome your contributions to this web page. Any information submitted and used will be attributed to your collection. Items should include reliable documentation. Newspaper articles by themselves are not necessarily reliable without supporting documentation. In my research I have found over 2500 vessels which were reported as total losses in the newspapers, yet lived to sail another day. However, if you have a good article which may report a total loss, send it along for comparison to my files. I have information on nearly 500 reported total losses which are not yet, in my estimation, well proved enough to go into this database (click here to see the list). Please note that this database is limited to vessels lost above the head of the St. Lawrence River (see note below), and, with a few exceptions, does not include yachts or abandoned vessels. Many wrecks which you may know about - especially those located in rivers or bays - were abandoned and are not in that spot because of a wreck.
EXPLANATORY NOTES to this shipwreck database
Except in the "OTHER NAMES" line, information which is speculative is enclosed in parentheses "( )." Information enclosed in brackets "[ ]" is for clarification. An asterisk "*" may be used to divert the reader to a continuation on a lower line or a footnote in the same entry.
Entries are set up in the following format:
Other names :
Official no. :
Type at loss :
Build info :
Date of loss :
Place of loss :
Type of loss :
Loss of life :
NAME: The "official" or, if not available, the most commonly accepted name of the vessel at the time of loss. Official names come from Merchant Vessels of the U.S., U.S. Custom House Registries and National Archives of Canada. It should be noted that, although MVUS is generally accurate, it does have occasional errors. [Note on the alphabetization scheme: Vessels with single-word or "standard" multi-word names are listed alphabetically. Vessels with compound names (i.e. named after people) are alphabetized by the last name of the person (this is done because many of these vessels are referred to in the press and elsewhere by their "last" name). Some names appear to be 1st/last names, but arent (i.e. LAURA BELLE, JOHN MARK). Vessels named after people with formal or informal titles are alphabetical by the title (i.e. COMMODORE JACK BERRY in the Cs, DON QUIXOTE in the Ds, LADY ELGIN in the Ls ). Vessels given "CITY" or "STATE" names (i.e. CITY OF DETROIT, STATE OF MICHIGAN) are in the Cs or Ss, respectively. An attempt has been made to cross-reference all names which might cause confusion.]
OTHER NAMES: Other official names used either before or after the accident. Date of name change may follow in parentheses. Also shown are nicknames and common erroneous spellings, so that the reader may recognize them. "None" means there was no other name for the vessel. "?" means that there may have been another name, but it is unknown.
OFFICIAL NO.: The official registration number of the vessel. Numbers with no prefix are U.S. official numbers. Numbers with "C" prefix are Canadian registered, BR for British, etc. "?" means registration number is unknown, but vessel is probably American. "C?" means number is unknown, but vessel is probably Canadian. "None" means vessel was unregistered or was lost in the era before official numbers were assigned to all vessels (1868 for U.S. vessels).
TYPE AT LOSS: Type of vessel, material of construction, type of cargo normally carried and number of masts (sail vessels only) at time of loss. "Propeller" means the method of propulsion, not the class of passenger and freight vessels known as propellers. This line may also contain a specific term for the vessel type, such as "rabbit" or "steambarge."
BUILD INFO: Year, builder and city of construction of the vessel. May be followed by US or Canadian official number, if the vessel had changed national registration.
SPECS: Dimensions and tonnages of the vessel at time of loss. Figures are rounded to the nearest unit. Measurements are in feet and take the following form: length of keel x beam x molded depth. "(oa)" stands for overall measurement. Tonnages have the following abbreviations: g for gross tonnage, n for net tonnage, gc for gross tonnage (Canadian measure), nc for net tonnage (Canadian measure), t for unspecified tonnage, bbl for barrel capacity, om for "old measure," the earlier U.S tonnage measure used before about 1868.
DATE OF LOSS: The date of the accident which led to the loss of the vessel.
PLACE OF LOSS: Specific location of the accident, as far as can be determined, referenced to some prominent geographic point. In general, geographic names in use at the time of the loss are shown. Loran or GPS numbers are not provided. Divers or others wishing the exact locations of known wrecks should consult local sources.
LAKE: Great Lake where the loss occurred. Accidents in rivers or connecting waters are referenced to the lake with which they connect. The Detroit and St. Clair Rivers and Lake St. Clair are treated as separate bodies. For purposes of this list, the Great Lakes' downbound end is approximately on a line between Clayton, NY and Kingston, Ontario, at the head of the St. Lawrence River.
TYPE OF LOSS: The major cause of the accident. A few entries have multiple major causes (e.g. storm/fire).
LOSS OF LIFE: Number of lives known to be lost by most reliable source. Includes lives of lifesaving crewmen or bystanders, if they were lost at the same time as the accident.
CARRYING: Cargo, passengers or other lading carried at time of loss. "Light" and "in ballast" mean without cargo.
DETAIL: Contains such important detail on the accident as is known as well as additional detail and historical information on the vessel itself. All known detail is not included for reasons of space.
SOURCES - Sources and contributors used for wreck information or to identify the vessel. The order in which sources appear has no significance. In some cases, sources in which the vessel would be expected to be found, but is not found, are shown as "not in ..." [e.g. Canadian bark EMPIRE, a large vessel owned out of Chatham, Ont., should be in mmgl, but is not, hence the notation "not in mmgl."] Abbreviations for sources:
(op = out of print; doc = document from private collection)
a&f - Ahoy & Farewell - J. A. Jackman, ed., The Marine Historical Society of Detroit, Detroit, 1970.
adv - The str ADVENTURE and Kelleys Isl..., Labadie, C. Patrick & Charles E. Herdendorf. Ohio Lake Erie Commission, Toledo, OH, 1998.
ae - Amhersburg Echo
atl - Around The Lakes - Detroit Dry Dock Co., Detroit, 1894. doc
anfs - American Naval Fighting Ships, U.S. Navy; Naval Historical Center, USGPO, Washington, 1975 .
asn - The History of the American Sailing Navy - Chappelle, Howard I., W.W. Norton, Bonanza Books, NY, 1949.
bbas - Blue Book of American Shipping - 1897 - Web page of Walter Lewis: http://www.hhpl.on.ca/GreatLakes/
bc - Buffalo Commercial Wrecklist of 1851, published Jan 9, 1852 in Milwaukee Sentinel - Robert Jaeck Collection
bcw - Buffalo Commercial Advocate Wrecklist of 1849, published Jan 2, 1850 - Robert Jaeck Collection
clu - Selected Canadian Lake Underwriters lists & Lloyd's lists doc
csqw -Canvas and Steam on Quinte Waters - Metcalfe, Willis. South Marysburgh Marine Society, South Bay, Ont., 1979.
csv - Canadian Coastal and Inland Steam Vessels, 1809-1930 - Mills, John M., Steamship Historical Society of America,
Providence RI, 1979 (plus three supplements). On-line at: http://184.108.40.206/marmus/mills.htm
ctw - Chicago Tribune wrecklist for 1856, pub in Milwaukee Sentinel of Nov 17, 1856 - Robert Jaeck Collection
dm - Dive Michigan! - Harrington, Steve. Maritime Press, Mason, MI, 1990.
do - Dive Ontario - Kohl, Cris. Self-published. Chatham, Ont., 1995
do2 - Dive Ontario 2 - Kohl, Cris. Self-published. Chatham, Ont., 1994.
eas - Encyclopaedia of American Shipwrecks - Berman, Bruce D., Mariner's Press, Boston, 1972.
eb - The Wreck of the Erie Belle - Stein, C. E., Ship 'N Shore Publishing, Wheatley, Ont., 1970.
eh - Early American Steamers - Heyl, Eric (4 volumes)
eluc - Early Life in Upper Canada - Guillet, Edwin C., U. of Toronto Press, Toronto, 1963
es - Echo Soundings (Amherstburg Echo) Vol. 1 Nos. 1-4, Vol. 2, No. 1-3 - Marsh Collection Society, Amherstburg, Ont., 1998-99.
fk - "Fool Killer": The Great Lakes' First Submarine - Harris, Partricia A. G. , Michigan City Historical Society, Michigan City, Ind, 1982.
g8s - Guardians of the 8th Sea - O'Brien, T. M. , USCG Public Relations, Washington, 1976.
glc - The Great Lakes Car Ferries - Hilton, George W., Howell-North, Berkeley, CA, 1962 - op
gld - Green's Marine Directory of the Great Lakes, 1916 - Green, Fred L. (from Walter Lewis' Webpage: http://www.hhpl.on.ca/GreatLakes/ )
globe - List of 1866 casualties from Jan 25, 1867 Toronto Globe doc
glp - Great Lakes Pilot - U.S. Lake Survey, Corps of Engineers, U. S Army, Detroit, 1970.
glss - Great Lakes Shipwrecks and Survivals - Ratigan, William - Eerdmann's Publishing, Grand Rapids, MI, 1960 (still in print: Freshwater Press, Cleveland)
gs - Great Stories of the Great Lakes - Boyer, Dwight. Dodd, Mead & Co., New York, 1966
gsg - Ghost Ships, Gales and Forgotten Tales - Olesczewski, Wes. Avery Color Studios, Marquette, MI, 1995.
gsgl - Ghost Stories of the Great Lakes - Boyer, Dwight. Dodd, Mead & Co., New York, 1968
gwgl - Great Wrecks of the Great Lake - Stonehouse, Frederick. Harboridge Press, Marquette, 1973.
h - Directory of Shipwrecks of the Great Lakes - Heden, Karl E. Boston, Bruce Humphries Publications, 1966.
hcgl - Historical Collections of the Great Lakes - Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH Robert Graham, curator Link
hdm - History of Detroit and Michigan - Farmer, Silas, S. Farmer & Co., Detroit, 1884. op
hgl - History of the Great Lakes - Mansfield, John Brant, J. H. Beers, Chicago, 1899 op
hmc - Short History of Marine City - McElroy, Frank (ed. by Gareth McNab) Marine City Rotary Club, Marine City (Michigan), 1980.
irs - Isle Royale Shipwrecks - Stonehouse, Frederick. Avery Color Studios, AuTrain, MI, 1977.
is - Inland Seas (vol. & number may follow), The Great Lakes Historical Society, Cleveland/Vermilion, OH, 1945 - pres.
iwm - Ice Water Museum - Oleszewski, Wes. Avery Color Studios, Marquette, MI, 1993.
ks- Keweenaw Shipwrecks - Stonehouse, Frederick. Avery Color Studios, AuTrain, MI, 1988.
le - Lake Erie - Hatcher, Harlan. American Lakes Series, Bobbs-Merrill, 1944. op
ledc - Lake Erie Dive Chart - Ackerman, Paul W., ed. Midwest Explorer's League, 1985
lh - Lake Huron - Quaife, Milo M. American Lakes Series, Bobbs-Merrill, New York, 1944. op
lhdc - Lake Huron Dive Chart - Ackerman, Paul W., ed. Midwest Explorer's League, 1986
lhl - Merchant Steam Vessels of the U.S. - the "Lytle & Holdcamper List" w/supplements. Steamship Historical Society of America, Inc., Staten Isl. NY, 1975.
lm - Lake Huron - Landon, Fred American Lakes Series, Bobbs-Merrill, New York, 1944. op
lmdc - Lake Michigan Dive Chart - Ackerman, Paul W., ed. Midwest Explorer's League, 1987
lo- Lake Ontario - Found, Arthur. American Lakes Series, Bobbs-Merrill, New York, 1944. op
lol - Lore of the Lakes - Bowen, Dana, self-published, Daytona Beach, FL, 1940 (still in print: Freshwater Press, Cleveland)
ls - Lake Superior - Nute, Grace Lee. American Lakes Series, Bobbs-Merrill, New York, 1944. op
lsdc - Lake Superior Dive Chart - Ackerman, Paul W., ed. Midwest Explorer's League, 1988
lsp - Long Ships Passing - Havighurst, Walter. New York, McMillan & Co. 1942
lss - Lake Superior Shipwrecks - Wolff, Julius.
lssc - Lake Superior's Shipwreck Coast - Stonehouse, Frederick. Avery Color Studios, AuTrain, MI, 1986.
mdwl - Marine Disasters on the Western Lakes during 1869 - Capt. J. W. Hall (from Walter Lewis webpage: http://www.hhpl.on.ca/GreatLakes/)
mh - Michigan History Magazine - Bureau of History, Mich Dept. of State, Lansing.
m&h - Mysteries & Histories - Oleszewski, Wes, Avery Color Studios, Marquette, MI, 1997
mjs - Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (newspaper)
mmgl - Marine Museum of the Great Lakes Registry List - Web page at: http://220.127.116.11/marmus/regist.htm
modoc - MODOC WHISTLE - Journal of the Saginaw River Marine Hist. Soc., Bay City, MI - 1991-Present
mol - Memories of the Lakes - Bowen, Dana T. Self-published, Daytona Bch, Fla., 1946. (still in print, Freshwater Press)
mpl - Milwaukee Public Library Great Lakes Marine Collection (including Runge file summaries) ttp://www.mpl.org/files/central/greatlakes/glakes.htm
mqs - Marquette Shipwrecks - Stonehouse, Frederick. Harboridge Press, Marquette, 1974.
ms - Munising Shipwrecks - Stonehouse, Frederick. Avery Color Studios, AuTrain, MI 1980
mv,mvus - Merchant Vessels of the U.S.- U. S. Dept. of Treasury, Steamboat Inspection Service, etc. -doc - (most op)
NAC - National Archives of Canada - Web page at: http://www.archives.ca/index.html
net - various internet sources - hard copies are in my clipping file
ns1 thru ns5 - Namesakes series, Greenwood, John O. (ascending from 1900-09 volume) Freshwater Press, Cleveland,1975-87
nsp - my newspaper clipping file [clippings mostly from Detroit Free Press]
osdo - Old Shipping Days in Oswego - Finn, Leo. Oswego, NY op
phr - notes from Port Huron Custom House Registrations by Richard Wright - Ralph Roberts Collection doc
polk - Polk's Great Lakes Marine Directory - 1883 - R.L. Polk & Co., Chicago, 1884. op
ppm - Past and Present of Macomb County - Eldredge, R. F., Clark & Co, Chicago, 1905 op
pss- By Paddlewheel, Sail & Steam - Fisher, M. C. self-published, 1991.
rep - Writings of R.E. Prescott - Alcona County Herald, Lincoln, MI, 1934.
rsh - Red Stacks Over the Horizon - Elliott, J. L., Eerdmanns, Grand Rapids, MI, 1967.
rsl - Register of Ships of the Lakes and River St. Lawrence, 1864 - http://www.hhpl.on.ca/GreatLakes/
s - The Salvager - Doner, Mary F. Ross & Haines, Minneapolis, 1958.
sagl - Strange Adventures of the Great Lakes - Boyer, Dwight. Dodd, Mead & Co., New York, 1974
sb - Wreck list of SEABOARD magazine of Jun 16, 1892, showing wrecks of 1886-91
sgr - Story of Grand Rapids - Lydens, Z. Z., ed. Kregel Pub., Grand Rapids, 1966.
sgl - Ships of the Great Lakes - Barry, J. T., Howell-North, Berkely, CA, 1976
sii - Steamboats in Ice - Donahue, James. Anchor Publications, Cass City, MI, 1995.
sip - Schooners in Peril - Donahue, James. Anchor Publications, Cass City, MI. 1995.
ski - Profiles of Shipwrecks in the Vicinity of Kelley's Island, Lake Erie, Herdendorf, E. and L. Pansing, GLHS, unpublished ms.
slh - Shipwrecks of Lake Huron - Parker, Jack. Avery Color Studios, AuTrain, MI, 1986.
sls - Shipwrecks of Lake Superior - Wolff, Julius. Lake Superior Marine Museum Assoc., Duluth, MN, 1979. (older version of lss (see above))
smgl - Ships and Men of the Great Lakes - Boyer, Dwight. Dodd, Mead & Co., New York, 1977 (still in print: Freshwater Press)
sol - Shipwrecks of the Lakes - Bowen, Dana. Self-published, Daytona Beach, Fla, 1952. (still in print: Freshwater Press)
sound - Sounds of Disaster - Oleszewski, Wes. Avery Color Studios, Marquette, MI, 1993.
soundings - Soundings: Jour. of the Wisc. Marine Hist. Soc.: http://www.mpl.org/files/central/greatlakes/soundings.htm
ssa - Shipwrecks of the Saugatuck Areas - Lane, Kit. Saugatuck Commecial Record, Saugatuck, MI, 1974.
ssb - Shipwrecks of the Sleeping Bear - Harold, Steve. Pioneer Study Center, Traverse City, MI, 1984.
ssnr - A Century of Steam and Sail on the Niagara River, Cumberland, Barlow. Musson Book Co. , Toronto, 1913 op
st - Shipwreck Tales - Kohl, Cris. Self-published. Chatham, Ont., 1987.
stb - Shipwrecks of Thunder Bay - Stonehouse, Frederick. B & J Watery World, Alpena, MI, 1986.
ttgl - True Tales of the Great Lakes - Boyer, Dwight, Freshwater Press, Cleveland, 1971.
vbs - Vessels Built on the Saginaw - Dave Swayze, Ralph Roberts & Don Comtois, Saginaw River Marine Historical Society, Bay City MI, 1994.
umr - Board of Marine Undrwriters Marine Register - 1861. Jack Messmer Collection.
usls - United States Lifesaving Service annual reports - doc (mostly supplied to me by Wes Oleszewski)
ussn - American Sailing Navy - Chapelle, Howard I. Bonanza Books, NY, 1949.
wb - U.S. Weather Bureau Reports doc
wbm - U.S. Weather Bureau annotated maps doc
win - Shipping Casualties on the Great Lakes - Winkelmann, A.
wl - Walter Lewis Collection and web page, Kingston, Ont.: http://www.hhpl.on.ca/GreatLakes/
wm - Went Missing - Stonehouse, Frederick. Avery Color Studios, AuTrain, MI, 1977.
wssa - The Wreck of the S. S. Alexandria, Canadian Archeological Divers Assn, Toronto, 1967
www - In the Wake of the Walk in the Water - Wendt, Gordon. Self-published, Sandusky, OH, 1984.
CONTRIBUTORS and Private Collections:
bb - Brendon Baillod Collection and database, Lake Michigan
brb - Brent Bamford, London, Ont.
bcha - Berrien County Historical Association (Robert C. Myers)
cc - Chris Campbell
cr - Clive Reddin, Toronto
dao - Dave Oney, North Fairfield, OH
dc - Don Comtois Collection, Bay City, MI
dcr - Doyle C. Rogers, crewman aboard str J. H. REED
df - Dan Fountain Collection
dg - David Galbraith, Hamilton, Ont. http://www.hwcn.org/~ae621/favourites/index.html
dh - David Hamilton, Amherstburg, Ont.
dmt - David M. Teepell list, Eastern Lake Ontario wrecks - 1868-1922
dp -Dale Pohto, Mentor, Ohio
r - Dave Reed, Port Perry, Ont.
els - Elmer L. Shafer, Pepper Pike, Oh (radio operator on CG cutter OSSIPEE - 1942)
emt - Esther M. Thompson, (descendant of a victim of the loss of the tug GRACE)
ff- Francis Farrell, St. Paul, MN (crewman on HENRY STEINBRENNER)
gcs - Gordon C Shaw, Thornhill, Ont.
ge - Gail Elliott, Roseville, MI
gl - Godon Lawson, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.
gmw - Georgann and Mike Wachter, Avon Lake, OH
go - Gerry Oderkirk
hh - Harvey Hadland, Bayfield, WI
hm - Hugh McNichol, Lansing, Mich (g-grandson of a J. Reid salvage supervisor)
ja - Joe Amberik, Cleveland, OH (crewman on Black Marlin)
jb - Joe Barr, Eastpointe, MI
jby - Jim Byrne
jd - John Dillon, Bay View, WI
jk - Koch Collection, Lake Erie
jm - Jack Messmer Collection
jos - John M. O'Shea, Dept. of Anthropology, University of Michigan
jtd - John T. Davidson, Marion, IL (son of the deckman on the salvage tug SALVOR)
jw - John Weichel, Southampton, Ont.
kvd - Derek Van Dahm, Westmont, IL
mar - Martin A. Riepma, Wellington, Fla.
mh - Mary Howard (no hometown given)
mu - Meredith Ulstad
ns - Neil Schultheiss Great Lakes & Seaway Shipping web site ["Boatnerd"] - http://www.boatnerd.com/
nsc - Natalie (Nordstrand) Scheller, Lowell, MI (daughter of crewman on tug LEON J.)
pc - Patricia Codney, Willoughby, OH
pac - Paul Carroll, Goderich, Ont.
pdw - Peter D. A. Warwick, Hamilton, Ont.
pf - Peter Ferris (Forest Park, IL)
rb - Ron Beaupre
rf - Rob Farrow, Thunder Bay, Ont.
rl - Ryan LeBlanc, Thunder Bay, Ont. (President, S.O.S Lake Superior)
rj - Robert Jaeck, Racine, WI
rnc - Rick Neilson Collection, Kingston, Ont.
rp - Richard Palmer Collection
rkr - Ralph K. Roberts Collection
rrc - Ralph R. Christiansen
sm - Skip Meier, Detroit Marine Hist. Soc.
se - Stephen B. Ellingson Collection, Andover, KS
sf - Suzanne Frantz, St. Clair, MI
svi - Seaview Imaging (Dan & Joyce Lindsay) Brantford, Ont.
ts - Ted Swayze, Hanover Park, Il
waw - William A. Warnick, Hamilton, Ont.
wes - Wes Oleszewski Collection
wl - Walter Lewis Collection and web page, Kingston, Ont.
wmn - William McNeil Collection
ws - William Stephan, jr., Darien, Il
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