A Century-Old Mystery Surfaces From Lake Superior

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Credits: Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary/AP

For more than 30 years, researchers have scoured the depths of Lake Superior for vessels lost to time. Each carries a dramatic story of lives at risk and, many times, lives lost. A stretch of shoreline in Michigan with about 200 known shipwrecks is called “Graveyard of the Great Lakes.”

Among The Greatest

Among the greatest of those mysteries has been the disappearance of a fleet belonging to the Edward Hines Lumber Company. On Nov. 18, 1914, the steamboat C.F. Curtis was towing two schooner barges and carrying three million board feet of lumber when a surprise storm sent all three boats to the bottom of Lake Superior. Twenty-eight crew members died across the Curtis and the two schooners, the Selden E. Marvin and the Annie M. Peterson. The historical society in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula announced last week that it had found two of the fleet’s three boats during exploratory missions with its research vessel. The Curtis was found in the summer of 2021, some 500 feet below the surface along with eight other shipwrecks, and the Selden E. Marvin was found the next summer, about 600 feet below.

When the robot went down, as soon as they hit it, we saw the age on the smokestack, and we knew it was the Hines fleet,” said Ric Mixter, a maritime historian and a board member of the historical society’s museum. The two boats were discovered about 25 miles off the shore of Grand Marais, Mich., about four to five miles from each other. The museum hopes the third boat, the Annie M. Peterson, will be found next.

Graveyard Of Great Lakes

The Curtis and the Marvin were found near the area known as the “Graveyard of the Great Lakes,” largely because of a combination of factors that include shipping congestion and bad weather. The discovery is considered to be among the group’s greatest. Because there were no survivors from the three ships and reports about the wrecks varied, researchers have had to piece together a record of what exactly happened on that November day. Historians know that the boats were part of the Hines fleet — the largest lumber fleet on the Great Lakes at the time, with eight steamers and 11 barges in all.

They also know that other boats in the Hines fleet had experienced bad weather in the days leading up to the sinking of the Curtis, Marvin and Peterson. But the forecast for that day, Mr. Mixter said, did not lead to any concerns. “We see a good portion of her stern is ripped off, and we can tell by the towing bits that she was probably in the middle of the tow,” Mr. Mixter said of Marvin. “It just surprised us to see the damage on the front and the back of that ship.” Still, there is the mystery of the Peterson to solve, and the historical society’s research boat will revisit the area where the Curtis and Marvin were found this summer.

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Source: NYtimes