Lady Elgin remains as the worst open water disaster in the history of the Great Lakes. The accident happened on September 8, 1860, claimed the lives of more than 300 people. A smaller vessel named Augusta, a 129-foot schooner rammed the 252-foot wooden steamship, Lady Elgin at a speed of 11 knots.
Witnesses account say that the second mate of Augusta spotted Lady Elgin 30 minutes before the collision. However, the schooner did change its course, however it was too late. The smaller vessel managed to correct its course 10 minutes before the collision.
When Augusta collided with Lady Elgin, there was music in the forward cabin. The noise from the music caused the captain of the Augusta to sail away thinking that their vessel sustained more damage than the larger vessel. But Augusta torn a big part of the Lady Elgin. The crew lowered a lifeboat but was not secured. The lifeboat just floated away before passengers could go onboard. Very tragic.
SS Carl D. Bradley
SS Carl D. Bradley was the largest ship that sailed the Great Lakes between the years 1927 and 1949. The 639-foot “Queen of the Lakes was an engineering spectacle as it serves as the largest and longest self-unloading freighter of its days.
The vessel used to tow limestone to the deep water ports of Lake Michigan from Lake Huron and Lake Superior. Before it sank, the Carl Bradley collided with another ship, MV White Rose along St. Clair River. The damage may have contributed to the disaster the following year.
A massive gale-force storm hit Carl Bradley on November 18 after a haul delivery in Gary, Indiana. The vessel was on its way heading north in the upper part of Lake Michigan., The freighter began coming apart around 5:30 pm when the storm’s wind reaching 65 miles per hour and waves began to soar up to 20 feet tall.
The crew made three radio calls of Mayday but rescuers reached the freighter to late. Only two survived from the 35 crewmen on board the Carl Bradley.
Records show that Niagara was the finest steamers of its era. The side-wheeled vessel was built in 1846 in Buffalo New York and served as transportation for both passengers and good in the Great Lakes.
However, on September 24, 1856, the steamship caught fire around 6:00 pm. The fire started in the engine room but the cause of the fire remains a mystery until today. One theory surfaces about the incident is that some flammable cargo may have cause the fire.
Most of the crew and passengers were able to jump from Niagara. Nearby ships later rescued the stranded people. However, 60 out of the 300 passengers died on that day and the entire ship was lost in the water.
One of the most memorable shipwrecks in Lake Michigan was the L.R. Dotty. The vessel was one of the last wooden steamships to set sail on the Great Lakes in 1893. Steel become the standards for newer models. The 291-foot steamer had reinforced steels and very much sturdy according to the standards.
L.R. Dotty also had a powerful and huge engine but did not have any electricity of any up to date communication technology. The vessel was no match for the vicious storm on October 25, 1898. On that same day, several vessels on the lake perished including Chicago boardwalk and Milwaukee break wall. The storm claimed all the lives and cargo onboard of L.R. Dotty. The ship was later discovered after 112 years after it sank in the bottom of Lake Michigan.
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