Northern Michigan in Focus: Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society Discovery
There is no shortage of shipwrecks in Lake Superior, but sometimes a big discovery is not a lost ship itself.
Chief photojournalist Corey Adkins and Michelle Dunaway take us to the depths for one of those discoveries in this week’s Northern Michigan in Focus.
“Every time we find something it’s exciting. I mean, being that this isn’t as big as a ship, if we went out looking for these with the little information that was available we probably would have never found them. You would have to come across them by accident,” says Darryl Ertel, Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society director of marine operations.
That’s exactly what happened this summer when the crew of the David Boyd from the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society came across a blip on their sonar.
“We weren’t sure what it was, and we took the David Boyd back out and we put down our ROV and this wreck was around 270 feet, but it’s more wreckage than wreck,” says Bruce Lynn, Great Lakes Shipwreck Society executive director.
The shipwreck society found something, but it wasn’t a shipwreck.
“And what it appeared to be was a lot of equipment that might be off of the deck of a ship. There appeared to be very small rail cars with structures built right onto them that looked like cranes, and in the end that’s what they turned out to be. At least we believe these are two derricks or deck cranes that were off of a 1929 shipwreck called ‘The Griffin’ of all things," explains Bruce.
Not to be confused with La Salle’s Griffin that sank in the 1600s. That still has never been found.
What they found were two old steam engine cranes that were swept off the ship in a September storm off of the Two Hearted River.
“You have these two massive cranes that are part of the ship being swept overboard, and that says something on how severe that storm was,” says Bruce.
Darryl explains, “One is standing on end and the other one is sitting upright. The booms both got bent on impact with the bottom.”
There’s around 200 shipwrecks between Whitefish Point and Munising. It’s known as the shipwreck coast.
That day in 1929, Captain Gallagher and his 22 crew members were lucky all they lost were their cranes.
Beaten up badly by the storm, The Griffin did make it back to the Soo, which makes this find very rare as to how small it is compared to a shipwreck.
“This is a unique find, very unique in the sense to find something that was overboard from the ship. There aren’t any of these ships left from that era, much less that have cranes like that that are still intact. So for us, it’s not a shipwreck but it’s part of that maritime history that was passing Whitefish Point on a pretty regular basis that we just don’t see today,” says Bruce.