xIcon
History

Two Shipwrecks from 1914 Discovered in Lake Superior

  • Craig Miller
  • |
  • April 20, 2023
  • |
  • 5 minute read
  • |
Two Shipwrecks from 1914 Discovered in Lake Superior
Key Takeaways
  • Researchers with the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society have discovered two of the three vessels that sank in Lake Superior on November 18, 1914, during a fierce storm. The steamship C.F. Curtis and the schooner barge Selden E. Marvin were found in deep waters, approximately 20 miles from the shores of Grand Marais, Michigan. The location of the third vessel, the schooner barge Annie M. Peterson, remains unknown.
  • Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake by surface area, is known for its treacherous waters. The combination of its vast size, unpredictable weather, and heavily trafficked shipping lanes has made it a dangerous place for sailors throughout history.
  • The discovery of the Curtis and Marvin sheds light on what maritime historian Ric Mixter calls "the nation's darkest day in lumber history." The storm claimed the lives of all 28 crew members and led to the loss of nearly a quarter of the Edward Hines Lumber Company's fleet.
  • With over 6,000 vessels estimated to have sunk in the Great Lakes, resulting in around 30,000 deaths, a stretch of shoreline in Michigan with about 200 known shipwrecks has been dubbed the "Graveyard of the Great Lakes."
  • The discoveries of the Curtis and Marvin were made possible through a combination of dedication and luck. The Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society has spent over 30 years scouring Lake Superior's depths for lost vessels, using sonar to search the lakebed each summer.
  • The discovery of these two shipwrecks has renewed interest in the stories of the sailors who perished during the storm in 1914. Researchers hope to honor the memory of the 28 crew members who lost their lives by sharing their stories and shedding light on the events that led to the sinking of the Curtis, Marvin, and Peterson.
  • The Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society remains dedicated to locating the remains of the Peterson and unraveling the full story of the tragic events of November 18, 1914.

 

Researchers with the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society have discovered two of the three vessels that sank in Lake Superior on November 18, 1914, during a fierce storm.

The steamship C.F. Curtis and the schooner barge Selden E. Marvin were found in deep waters, approximately 20 miles from the shores of Grand Marais, Michigan.

The location of the third vessel, the schooner barge Annie M. Peterson, remains unknown.

A Tragic Day in Lumber History

The three vessels belonged to the Edward Hines Lumber Company, now known as Hines Supply, and were transporting lumber from Baraga, Michigan, to Tonawanda, New York.

The storm claimed the lives of all 28 crew members and led to the loss of nearly a quarter of the company’s fleet.

The discovery of the Curtis and Marvin sheds light on what maritime historian Ric Mixter calls “the nation’s darkest day in lumber history.”

The search for the Peterson will continue, as researchers hope to fully uncover this enduring maritime mystery.

The Perils of Lake Superior

Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake by surface area, is known for its treacherous waters. The combination of its vast size, unpredictable weather, and heavily trafficked shipping lanes has made it a dangerous place for sailors throughout history.

Ships often succumbed to stormy weather or collided with one another due to insufficient communication tools.

Marine radio was introduced in 1899, but it took time to become widespread, leaving many vessels at the mercy of the elements and chance encounters with other ships.

A Graveyard of Shipwrecks

With over 6,000 vessels estimated to have sunk in the Great Lakes, resulting in around 30,000 deaths, a stretch of shoreline in Michigan with about 200 known shipwrecks has been dubbed the “Graveyard of the Great Lakes.”

Among the most famous shipwrecks is the Edmund Fitzgerald, which inspired Gordon Lightfoot’s song “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” in 1976.

The Great Lakes were a crucial route for transporting goods like lumber, coal, iron, and other valuable materials during the Industrial Revolution and beyond, making the area a hotspot for maritime disasters.

The Legacy of the Hines Lumber Company

The Edward Hines Lumber Company was once the largest lumber fleet on the Great Lakes, with eight steamers and 11 barges in total.

At the time of the Curtis, Marvin, and Peterson’s sinking, the company was carrying enough lumber to build 1,200 houses.

The tragic loss of nearly a quarter of its fleet in the 1914 storm marked a turning point for the company, which eventually transitioned away from maritime transportation and evolved into the modern-day Hines Supply.

Dedication and Luck

The discoveries of the Curtis and Marvin were made possible through a combination of dedication and luck.

The Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society has spent over 30 years scouring Lake Superior’s depths for lost vessels, using sonar to search the lakebed each summer.

The Curtis was found in 2021, while the Marvin was located in 2022, just a few miles away from the Curtis’ watery resting place.

Researchers hope to honor the memory of the 28 crew members who lost their lives by sharing their stories and shedding light on the events that led to the sinking of the Curtis, Marvin, and Peterson.

Preserved in Chilly Waters

Both the Curtis and Marvin were found at depths of 500 and 600 feet, respectively.

Lake Superior’s cold waters have preserved the ships well, allowing researchers to capture images of equipment, lumber, and possibly even clothing. The ships displayed unexpected signs of damage, suggesting they may have collided. 

Researchers continue to piece together the events of that fateful November day, hoping to unravel the story of their tragic sinking and to better understand the challenges faced by the crew members in their final moments.

Technological Advances in Underwater Exploration

The discovery of the Curtis and Marvin was made possible by the technological advancements in underwater exploration.

High-resolution side-scan sonar, remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), and other cutting-edge tools have allowed researchers to probe the depths of the lake and capture images of the wrecks with unprecedented clarity.

These technologies have greatly expanded the possibilities for underwater archaeology and maritime history research, offering a window into the past and enabling scientists to study shipwrecks and their surrounding environments in ways that were once unimaginable.

Telling the Stories of Those Lost at Sea

The discovery of these two shipwrecks has renewed interest in the stories of the sailors who perished during the storm in 1914.

The tragic event serves as a reminder of the perils faced by those who made their living on the Great Lakes, as well as the human cost of industrial progress during the early 20th century. 

Researchers hope to honor the memory of the 28 crew members who lost their lives by sharing their stories and shedding light on the events that led to the sinking of the Curtis, Marvin, and Peterson.

Public Access and Preservation

As the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society continues to uncover the mysteries of the deep, they are committed to preserving these wrecks and sharing their findings with the public. 

The society operates several museums and visitor centers throughout the Great Lakes region, where they display artifacts and share the stories of the ships and their crews.

These sites offer a glimpse into the rich maritime history of the Great Lakes, serving as an educational resource and a memorial to those who lost their lives in pursuit of their livelihoods.

The Continuing Search for the Annie M. Peterson

While the discovery of the C.F. Curtis and the Selden E. Marvin has brought new understanding and closure to a chapter in Lake Superior’s maritime history, the search for the third vessel, the schooner barge Annie M. Peterson, continues.

The Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society remains dedicated to locating the remains of the Peterson and unraveling the full story of the tragic events of November 18, 1914.

As the search goes on, researchers hope to one day find the final piece of the puzzle and pay tribute to the men who lost their lives during one of the most devastating storms in the history of the Great Lakes.

Craig Miller

Craig Miller

Read Full Biography

LATEST NEWS

You're Go-To-Place For All Things Culture

Sign-up for our mailing list for free betting picks, and exclusive promotions.


You May Also Like

Exploring the Mystery of Broken Noses on Ancient Egyptian Statues
History

Exploring the Mystery of Broken Noses on Ancient Egyptian Statues

Ever wondered why so many ancient Egyptian statues have broken noses? This common question arises from the frequent observation that…

Top Museums in Budapest: A Cultural Journey Through Time
History

Top Museums in Budapest: A Cultural Journey Through Time

Budapest, a city known for its rich history and vibrant culture, is home to many museums that cater to various…

Brazil’s Ancient Discovery: Artifacts and Skeletons Reshape History
History

Brazil’s Ancient Discovery: Artifacts and Skeletons Reshape History

Explore the significant archaeological discovery in Brazil, where over 100,000 artifacts and 43 skeletons unearthed could redefine the country’s ancient…