A World War II steamship that sank with its captain during a severe storm in 1940 has been found at the bottom of Lake Superior after a 10-year search.
The 244-foot SS Arlington lay under 650 feet of water about 35 miles north of Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula for 74 years and was only found after a dogged wreck hunter pursued its careful hunting.
The Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society, which worked on the discovery with researcher Dan Fountain, confirmed the discovery in a statement Monday.
Fountain spotted something at the bottom of the lake using remote sensing data and contacted the company for help finding out what it was. Last year, the company towed a sonar over the suspected resting place and confirmed it was a wreck, before underwater drones verified it was indeed a wreck. the Arlington disappeared.
Video footage released by the company showed a rotting wreck, with its smokestack toppled but its rudder, or steering wheel, still intact.
Captain Frederick “Tatey Bug” Burke, an experienced Great Lakes sailor, was the only crew member to die in the incident. Why he went down with the ship and did not escape to a nearby ship like his crew remains a mystery.
The Arlington was a Canadian bulk carrier that departed fully loaded with wheat from Port Arthur, Ontario, on April 30, 1940, bound for Owen Sound, Ontario, 1,000 miles east on Lake Huron. It was found near Copper Harbor, Michigan.
The ship and another it was accompanying, the Collingwood, ran into thick fog on Lake Superior that turned into a storm as night fell, with both ships buffeted by the rough waters, the report said. the society.
Arlington’s mate, Junis Macksey, ordered the ship to sail close to the Canadian coast to the north, to protect itself from the swirling winds and waves.
But Burke overrode the order and returned the ship to open waters. At 4:30 a.m. on May 1, Chief Engineer Fred Gilbert sounded the alarm that the Arlington was sinking.
“Fearing for their lives and without orders from Captain Burke, the crew began abandoning ship on their own. Fortunately, everyone got off the ship safely. Arlington and reached the safety of the Collingwood… everyone except Captain “Tatey Bug” Burke,” the company statement said.
Despite an investigation and decades of speculation, Burke’s fate has remained an enigma ever since. The company said some reports at the time indicated he was seen near the ship’s flight deck and waved to the Collingwood as it sank to the bottom.
Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society Executive Director Bruce Lynn said it was teamwork that made the discovery possible.
“These targets don’t always amount to anything…but this time it was absolutely a shipwreck. A wreck with an interesting and perhaps mysterious history. If Dan hadn’t contacted us, we might never have located the Arlington…and we certainly would have done it. “I don’t know as much about its history as I do now,” he said.
“And that was absolutely demonstrated when Negaunee resident Dan Fountain approached us with a potential target near the Copper Harbor area on Lake Superior.
“It’s exciting to solve another of Lake Superior’s many mysteries: finding Arlington so far out in the lake,” Fountain said. “I hope this final chapter in his story can provide some closure for Captain Burke’s family.”
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