For over a century, the mystery of two ships lost in the depths of Lake Superior has remained unsolved. But now, with the help of the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society (GLSHS), the missing vessels have been found.
On November 18, 1914, a lumber fleet from the Edward Hines Lumber Company set sail from Baraga, Michigan, to Tonawanda, New York. The fleet consisted of the steamship C.F. Curtis, towing two schooner barges, the Selden E. Marvin and Annie M. Peterson. The ships had a total of 28 people on board but never made it to their destination.
“The combined losses of the C.F. Curtis, Selden E. Marvin and Annie M. Peterson have comprised one of the more tragic stories of shipwreck on the Great Lakes and certainly became one of the Lake Superior’s enduring mysteries,” Bruce Lynn, executive director of the GLSHS said.
It is believed that the ships encountered a severe storm during their journey, bringing snow squalls, high winds, and massive waves. This storm was strong enough to claim the lives of 28 people and bring enough lumber to build 1,200 houses to the lakebed of Superior.
After search efforts of decades, the GLSHS announced last week that they have located the two missing ships. The C.F. Curtis was found in 2021 and the Selden E. Marvin was discovered within a few miles of the Curtis using a remotely operated vehicle. The two ships were found roughly 25 miles off the shore of Grand Marais, Michigan, in what researchers call the “Graveyard of the Great Lakes.”
“It was a career highlight to have witnessed the discovery of the Marvin, as it not only solved a chapter in the nation’s darkest day in lumber history, but also showcased a team of historians who have dedicated their lives towards making sure these stories aren’t forgotten,” Ric Mixter, a maritime historian and GLSHS board member said.
Researchers believe that the Marvin was in the middle of the tow, while the Peterson was behind. The ships have been well-preserved due to Lake Superior’s cold, fresh water, giving researchers a glimpse of that fateful day.
“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,” Mixter said. “It just surprised us to see the damage on the front and the back of that ship,” he continued, adding that no one on the ship stood a chance because of the speed at which the ships went down.
Researchers will send teams back to the locations where the Curtis and Marvin were discovered this summer in hopes of finding the Peterson.
“It would be great to know where all 3 wrecks are lying on the bottom of Superior, and finally be able to tell the stories of the Curtis, Marvin and Peterson,” Darryl Ertel, the director of marine operations at the GLSHS said.
The mystery of the two ships has been solved, but the tragedy of the lives lost will never be forgotten. The GLSHS have done a remarkable job in uncovering the secrets of Lake Superior and honoring the memories of those lost in the storm.