WHITEFISH POINT, Mich. (AP) — Wreck hunters have discovered a merchant ship that sank in Lake Superior in 1940, taking its captain with it, during a storm off Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
The Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society and shipwreck researcher Dan Fountain announcement Monday discovered the 244-foot (74-meter) bulk carrier Arlington in about 650 feet (200 meters) of water about 35 miles (60 kilometers) north of Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula.
The Arlington departed Port Arthur, Ontario, on April 30, 1940, fully loaded with wheat and headed for Owen Sound, Ontario, under the command of Captain Frederick “Tatey Bug” Burke, a Great Lakes veteran.
But as the Arlington and a larger freighter, the Collingwood, crossed Lake Superior, they encountered thick fog and then a storm at nightfall that struck both ships. The Arlington began to take on water.
The ship’s mate ordered the Arlington to take a course to skirt the northern Canadian coast, which would have provided some protection from wind and waves, but Burke overruled and ordered his ship to resume a course to across the open lake, the discoverers said.
Early on May 1, 1940, the Arlington began to sink and the ship’s chief engineer raised the alarm. The crew, “out of fear for their lives and without orders from Captain Burke,” began abandoning ship, they said in a statement.
The entire crew reached the Collingwood safely, except for Burke, who went down with the Arlington. Reports indicate he was last seen near his cockpit, saluting the Collingwood, minutes before his ship disappeared into the lake.
The castaways’ society said in a statement that “no one will ever know the answer” as to why Burke acted as he did before the loss of his ship.
“It’s exciting to solve another of Lake Superior’s many mysteries, finding Arlington so far out in the lake,” Fountain said in a statement. “I hope this final chapter in his story can provide some closure for Captain Burke’s family.”
The Arlington was discovered thanks to Fountain, a Negaunee, Mich., resident who has been doing remote sensing searches in Lake Superior looking for shipwrecks for about a decade, said Bruce Lynn, executive director of the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society.
Fountain approached the group with “a potential target” near the northern tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula, and the Arlington was discovered last year. » said Lynn.
“These goals don’t always amount to anything…but this time it was absolutely a trainwreck. A wreck with an interesting and perhaps mysterious history,” he said in the release. “If Dan hadn’t contacted us, we might never have located the Arlington.”
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