Ship Wreck Exploration from Grand Superior Lodge

Past demonstrations of Lake Superior’s power have left a number of shipwrecks along the shore. While it is sad they occurred, they are fascinating to learn about. There are a number of stops on our north shore shipwreck experience tour close to Grand Superior Lodge.

A good place to start is Split Rock Lighthouse, nine miles from the lodge. When you are at Split Rock Lighthouse you can enjoy all the shipwreck exhibits. You can also see a real shipwreck.  Without putting on a wetsuit, you can see the remains of the Madeira.

“It is fairly clear most of the time there so you should be able to see parts of it,” said Viking Diver owner Elmer Engman.

The Madeira is so popular with divers that they have their own parking lot. The place to see it from the shore is a cliff a little north of the parking lot.

The Madeira was one of the many barges at that time. These barges were loaded with cargo and towed by steamships. When the 1905 Mataafa Storm hit, the captain of this barge’s steamship escort cut the line. The Madeira was pushed toward the shore, where it struck Gold Rock.

Just a few minutes up the shore is the Silver Bay Marina. This setting now looks peaceful enough. It is home to majestic sailboats, with breakwaters providing ample protection from the biggest of storms. It was not quite so peaceful in 1905.

That November, the storm caused havoc here and across the lake. Just north of the beginning of the breakwater, not far underwater, are the remains of the Hesper. When you go there, you might be lucky enough to see some divers going for a closer look at this well-preserved ruin.

The Hesper was a steamer thrown off course by the 60+ MPH winds. The ship then hit a reef just beyond the current breakwater and sunk.

If you wish to see more results of the 1905 storm, you can drive about 25 more miles up the shore, to the Taconite Harbor Small Craft Harbor. Here is another place where a towed ship sunk. This time the tow-line was not cut. Instead, it broke while the steamship was trying to ride out the storm behind the partial protection of two islands, which now have a breakwater built between them. You’ll see a marker commemorating the lost ship and the three crewmen who didn’t make it.

Not far from here is also the North Shore Commercial Fishing Museum, which gives a sense of what life was like decades ago. Then, the scattered settlements relied on the lake and its ships for their very survival. Now we can see the shipwrecks and go back to the comfort of a resort, thankful for those who have gone before us.

Dennis O’Hara
Used with permission.
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