Last week we listened with our minds' ear as Ernest Shackleton's ship the Endurance met her icy, lonely end. Her remains will never be found nor her exact resting place be known. Continuing our own voyage along the southern shore of Lake Superior, we will pass over the remains of many vessels, their location well known, their graves serving as sites for recreational divers.

Before arriving at the eastern end of the lake, we sail along one of the loneliest, most dangerous stretches. For over a hundred miles only the towns of Grand Marais (place of refuge in the patois of the Voyageur), and much further on, the village of Paradise, are found. The most apt explanation of the latter's name may be the fact that survivors of ships wrecked off Whitefish Point would find no other port within 30 miles. Even the Canadian shore opposite has no settlements. The stretch of lake is known as "the loneliest place in America." Along with a select few regions elsewhere in the world, it sports the appellation The Shipwreck Coast. Fittingly enough, the Point now serves as home to the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum and a 376-square-mile Underwater Preserve. Perhaps the most famous peacetime shipwreck, after the Titanic, is that of the Edmund Fitzgerald. It's story has been told in great detail elsewhere; it was off Whitefish Point that the 729-foot ore freighter went down with the loss of its 29-man crew, in 1975. At least 18 other vessels lie beneath Whitefish waters.

Like the Titanic, the wooden steamer Comet made a major mistake; in 1898 it tried to avoid a collision. The former, had it not swerved, might have hit the ice head on, become hung up on the berg and stayed afloat long enough for rescuers to arrive. The Comet slowed to evade the oncoming Canadian vessel Manitoba, but ended up turning into the path of the steamer, which hit the port bow and tore a 15-foot gash in the vessel. Ten crew members perished; eleven survived.

In November of 1919, the 186-foot steamboat Myron was heading for Buffalo with a cargo of lumber, towing the schooner-barge Miztec. Twelve miles northwest of the bay, she ran into a storm. Cutting the tow lines to the barge, the captain made a run for safety. Ice built up on his ship, causing it to veer wildly in the waves. The 420 foot steamer Adriatic attempted to provide a windbreak for the Myron. Then the Myron's boiler fires flooded. Powerless, she began to roll. Towering waves swept her cargo overboard, littering the lake surface for miles. The waves and debris prevented rescuers from a nearby life saving crew from reaching the foundering vessel. Then the crew escaped in the ship's boats. But the floating debris kept the boats from running for shore, and all 16 of the crew died of exposure. The captain tried to go down with the ship, but the pilot house broke loose, and he was rescued.

OUTRO
For Classical ninety-one five, this is David Minor




© 1999 David Minor / Eagles Byte

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