Lost & Found: Legendary Lake Michigan Shipwrecks
by V. O. Van Heest
The many shipwrecks presented in Lost and Found became even more famous after their discoveries than at the time of their losses, gaining notoriety as historic attractions, archaeological sites, and in some cases, over bold salvage attempts or precedent- setting legal battles. Through riveting narrative, the award-winning author and explorer takes the readers back in time to experience the careers and tragic sinkings of these ships, then beneath the lake to participate in the triumphant discovery and exciting exploration of their remains and the circumstances that led to their status as legendary shipwrecks.
The vessels in this comprehensive publication span the age of sail, steam, and diesel on the Great Lakes from the earliest schooners to the sidewheel steamers, propellers, carferries, self-unloaders, and yachts. They include
ships lost in Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan waters that were discovered by some of the lake’s most prolific wreck hunters, including the author’s own organization—Michigan Shipwreck Research Associates—in
partnerships with legendary wreck hunters David Trotter, Ralph Wilbanks, and nationally acclaimed author Clive Cussler. Presented chronologically based on the date discovered, these shipwrecks provide an overview of evolving diver attitudes and conduct, as well as the laws affecting exploration and documentation. Most assuredly, the compelling sagas of these important vessels did not end when the waves of Lake Michigan washed over them.
Unsolved Mysteries: The Shipwreck Thomas Hume
by Valerie vanHeest and William Lafferty
On May 21, 1891, the lumber schooner Thomas Hume and its crew of seven sailed out of Chicago, into a spring storm, never to be seen again. The vessel’s owners, Charles Hackley and Thomas Hume of Muskegon,
Michigan, could not believe the sturdy lumber hooker could be overcome by rough water. Perhaps a freighter hit it, sank it, then steamed north. Or maybe the crew stole the Hume, repainted it, and sailed away under a different name. The disappearance of the Thomas Hume lingered as one of the great unsolved mysteries of the Great Lakes. In recent years, it even became fodder for UFO stories on the internet.
More than a century after its disappearance, the discovery of the wreck of the Thomas Hume solved the mystery of its disappearance. However, the collection of shoes, clothing, jewelry, coins, and tools found inside generated even more questions. An archaeological investigation by Michigan Shipwreck Research Associates and the Lakeshore Museum Center has attempted to solve the riddles posed by the shipwreck. After survey dives, historical research, and detective-like reasoning, the team pieced together not only the Thomas Hume’s career, but how its crew lived, worked, and died on the lake.
Through Surf and Storm: Shipwreck of Ottawa County, Michigan
By Craig Rich
The words of the United States Coast Guard hymn bring to mind the dedication of those who always have been prepared to risk their own lives to save those whose lives are in peril on the Great Lakes. Whether the
U.S. Life Saving Service, the U.S. Coast Guard or, at times, Keepers of the U.S.Lighthouse Service, mariners on the Great Lakes knew there were good men and women dedicated to coming to their assistance in times of emergency.
As Michigan’s premiere lumbering port during the 19th century, Muskegon served as the eastern terminus for a huge fleet of scows, schooners, side-wheelers, steamers, and propellers for the past 180 years. While vessel capacity andcomfort were increased, the size of the losses were as well. Many of these vessels sank in deep water while others washed ashore to be broken up by wind, waves, and ice. Some exploded or burned at the dock while others simply rotted away after plying the lakes for decades. Modern man may catch glimpses of these
historic vessels as shifting sands uncover and recover beach wrecks or the bones of abandoned schooners in shallow waters. Scuba divers visit other wrecks—many in surprisingly good condition—while the search continues for dozens of others still hidden under fathoms of cold, dark water.
These vessels and the men and women who served on them are an important part of our history. From the lumber barons and fleet owners of the 1800s to the charter fishing boat captains of the modern era, the men and women who make a living on the lakes paint a colorful maritime history of Muskegon County, Michigan.
Lost on the Lady Elgin
by Valerie van Heest
September 8, 1860, illuminating the palatial sidewheel steamer Lady Elgin as she lumbered north from Chicago through raging seas and gale winds. The vessel’s perilous journey would end abruptly and tragically
when the schooner Augusta collided with the steamer, piercing a gaping and fatal wound in the steamer’s port side. Within minutes, the Lady Elgin broke up and foundered, forcing her terrified passengers and crew into the maelstrom. Some drowned quickly; others clung to small bits of wreckage throughout the horrific early morning. Most lost their lives in the churning surf along shore. Over three hundred people, mainly Irish-Americans from Milwaukee’s Third Ward, perished in the disaster—the worst maritime tragedy ever on the open waters of
the Great Lakes. Newspaper headlines announced the “alarming calamity,” survivors recounted their terrifying ordeals, tens of thousands turned out for funerals in Milwaukee, and the tragedy evoked far-reaching effects, including the establishment of a lighthouse and life-saving service at Evanston, Illinois. However, the volatile 1860 presidential election leading to the start of the Civil War would overshadow the tragedy of the Lady Elgin’s loss, and the memory of the accident faded.
One hundred twenty-nine years after the disaster, the Lady Elgin became headline news again when the discovery of her wreck incited a legal battle over ownership, leading the state of Illinois to conduct a survey,
initially directed by the author, to document several areas of debris off the shores of northern Illinois. Award-winning author Valerie van Heest, drawing on an extensive collection of primary materials amassed during and after the survey work on the Lady Elgin, provides a copiously researched historical narrative that recounts the golden age of passenger travel on the Great Lakes on the eve of a pivotal presidential election and describes in detail the terrifying loss of the Lady Elgin as four hundred souls fought for their lives.The 150th anniversary of the Lady Elgin’s loss is commemorated by this comprehensive account of the disaster.
Buckets and Belts: Evolution of the Great Lakes
Self-Unloaders. By William Lafferty and Valerie van Heest
On a warm summer afternoon in 1927 off South Haven, Michigan, an old barge began taking on water. Helpless to staunch the flow and realizing their vessel would inevitably sink, the crew escaped to the accompanying tug, and watched as their ship plunged beneath Lake Michigan. Its loss unlamented, its career unheralded, it slumbered on the sandy bottom in the same obscurity that had shrouded its earlier work days as a steam freighter sailing the Great Lakes. However, the vessel’s anonymity ended in 2006 when Michigan Shipwreck Research Associates located the sunken wreck of the Hennepin. It is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the world’s first self-unloading vessel.
Buckets and Belts: Evolution of the Great Lakes Self-Unloader traces more than a century of innovative technological advancements in the conveying of bulk cargos from the Hennepin’s conversion to a self-unloader in 1902 to today’s mammoth thousand-foot long lakers. Enhanced with the most comprehensive collection of self-unloader images ever published and dozens of underwater photographs, the book also explores the lives of the people who designed these vessels, the crewmen who sailed them and the self-unloaders that tragically went to the bottom, often taking entire crews with them.
For Those in Peril: Shipwrecks Of Ottawa County Michigan
By Craig Rich
The lyrics of the hymn Eternal Father Strong to Save pay homage to sailors who risk their lives in the course of everyday work and aptly express the intriguing maritime heritage of Ottawa County, Michigan, a region
along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan that saw many a ship and sailor lost. The lakeshore communities of Grand Haven and Holland became thriving commercial ports in the latter half of the 19th century and bore witness to the evolutionary changes in Great Lakes transportation. Early wooden sailing vessels were replaced by wooden steamers, which soon made way for steel vessels, which grew to include today's "thousand footers." Schooners
laden with lumber and stone gave way to luxury passenger steamships ferrying Chicago’s wealthy tourists to Ottawa County’s grand tourist hotels. Families were changed forever when husbands and sons were lost to the gales of November, and fortunes were lost when vessel owners tried to get just one more trip in before the harsh winters closed the ports. Many of these vessels were simply overtaken by age, mechanical failure or shifting sands. Some broke up on shore while others were refloated to sail again. Some were left to rot at the dock
while others simply sailed over the horizon into oblivion never to be seen again. Many now serve as “ice water museums,” attracting scuba divers, explorers and historians to these shipwrecks that comprise an important part of the early history of Ottawa County and the Great Lakes region as well.
ICEBOUND! The Adventures of Young George Sheldon and the SS Michigan
by Valerie van Heest
ICEBOUND! is an inspiring illustrated two-part story of perseverance and bravery that begins in 1885 and concludes in the present day.Young George Sheldon, a porter aboard the steamship SS Michigan, is drawn into the adventure of a lifetime when his ship becomes trapped in the pack-ice in Lake Michigan during the great winter storm of 1885. Because of George’s heroic efforts, the captain and all twenty-nine crewmen live to tell the saga of how after thirty-nine icebound days, their ship is slowly crushed by the ice and sinks far from Holland, Michigan’s shore.
More than a century later, a determined team of scuba divers spend three long years searching the depths of Lake Michigan until they finally find the wreck of the SS Michigan in 275 feet of water. When they dive down to the shipwreck they discover that it’s a time capsule with everything just the way George and the crew left it when they abandoned their ship to make the dangerous walk across miles of frozen lake. They even find the oil lanterns that young George kept lit through the whole ordeal!