Landmark shipwreck discovery makes waves

An iron ore vessel missing for nearly a century has been found in Lake Superior off the coast of Marquette.

After 25 years of searching, shipwreck hunters found, what is believed to be the 525 foot long S.S. Henry B. Smith, split in two.  It was found just 20 minutes after the search crew dropped their sonar unit off the coast of Big Bay. The steel freighter was just one of 17 ships lost in the Great Storm of 1913.

“That was the greatest storm ever to strike the lakes in pure loss and destruction. When it was done, we had 17 ships that were wrecked. We had nine of those being modern steel ore carriers and we had 250 dead sailors. This was a stem winder. We had 30 foot seas, we had 75 mph winds. It must have been hell on the Henry B. Smith. And as he’s trying to make his way up to the Keewenaw, all he’s thinking of is survival. If he can get his ship under the protection, he can live. If he can’t, he’s going to die. He didn’t and the ship would die. She would sink, literally disappear, with 29 men aboard. Of those, only one body was ever recovered. That was that of the second engineer found on the eastern end of Lake Superior, frozen in a block of ice six months later,” explained Fred Stonehouse, a historian at the Maritime Museum, in Marquette.

Wreckage from the Smith came ashore from Marquette to as far east as Pictured Rocks. The search crew now has 4 hours of footage from the landmark discovery to comb through for more clues as to why the ship sank.

“Putting the discover in perspective is very easy. One word: huge. It’s solving the last of the nine missing ships. It’s the nine sisters that went missing. The Henry B. Smith was the last to be found and somehow very fitting on the 100th Anniversary of her loss. But invariably what they found was the tip of the iceberg. We found the iceberg. We see the tip, but how much is beyond that. We have plenty of questions. We just don’t have the answers yet,” Stonehouse noted.

The Maritime Museum will be in close contact with the discovery and will have updates as the vessel comes to the surface.