Wreck of rare 19th century composite ship found in Lake Superior

Image: 9and10news.com
Image: 9and10news.com

A steam-powered ship that sank off Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula during a period of bad weather over a century ago has finally been found.

The Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society (GLSHS) has confirmed that an 89-metre-long wreck lying at the bottom of Lake Superior was that of S. R. Kirby, an 1890-built towboat that was lost on May 8, 1916.

A large wave was believed to have crashed into S. R. Kirby on that day, sending the towboat and 20 of its crew more than 200 metres to the bottom in less than a minute.

There were only three survivors: two crewmembers and the captain’s dog.

Gale-force winds of up to 66 knots had been reported in the area at the time of the sinking.

The GLSHS first came across S. R. Kirby‘s wreck in 2018 while conducting a sonar sweep of the area to look for other submerged vessels.

The wreck was only recently identified as that of the lost towboat after further historical research and ROV surveys of the site were conducted.

GLSHS executive director Bruce Lynn pointed out the wreck’s historical and archaelogical significance, saying that S. R. Kirby was one of only a handful of composite ships that were built in the United States in the late 1800s.

Composite ships were so named due to their construction, which consisted of an iron frame surrounded by a wooden hull.

The construction of S. R. Kirby, as well as that of other composite ships, was regarded as both new and experimental for its time, Lynn added.

Baird Maritime

The best maritime site on the web. The sea's our scene!