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Oct. 2009 Vol 16 Dear MSRA Members, Too many wrecks and so little time! This late summer early fall has seen us very active and so we are pleased to present another issue of The Explorer to share the latest happenings. The theme for this special issue is the City of Muskegon. It is home to four vessels we are working on, one that called Muskegon home, but sank far away, and three that have spent the last many decades just miles from Muskegon’s safe harbor. MSRA will be partnering with a team of divers from Chicago to work on a project of great significance to Muskegon’s and Michigan’s maritime history and our lumbering industry. You can read about the Thomas Hume on the front page story. MSRA also spent a weekend diving on and documenting three wrecks off Muskegon’s shore. Read about them on pages four and five. Please mark your calendars for Saturday December 5th for MSRA’s annual Christmas party at our home once again. We hope to see a good turn out again and will debut some of the raw footage from the Thomas Hume. Best Regards,

Valerie van Heest Co-Director, MSRA

The Thomas Hume Comes Home

Veteran Chicagoland divers Tom Palmisano, Jeff Strunka, Bob Schmitt and Bud Brain, (a diver from the team that recovered the famed Alvin Clark in 1969), have offered MSRA the opportunity to work with them to document an historic vessel that has significant ties to Western Michigan, Chicago and Milwaukee during the period when lumbering was the main commodity shipped on the Great Lakes. A shipwreck, found in the course of unrelated commercial work by a Chicagobased marine salvage firm A&T Recovery, was turned over to Palmisano, Strunka and their dive team for the purposes of documenting and identifying the vessel. Over the last three years, they have made over 75 individual dives on the wreck taking measurements, recording artifacts, and shooting hours of underwater video. Although positive identification has not been made through a nameboard or ship numbers, the team has matched the wreck to many sources which point to the Thomas Hume,

which went missing on May 21, 1891, while sailing in the company of the legendary Rouse Simmons, the Christmas Tree Ship. The Thomas Hume left Chicago to return to Muskegon, riding high in the water in consort with one of the company’s other schooners, the Rouse Simmons. The two vessels encountered a squall which made the captain of the Simmons nervous enough to turn back to Chicago. The Thomas Hume continued on, disappearing and becoming the subject of rumor and conjecture. Two days later the Simmons sailed from Chicago for Muskegon, expecting to see the Hume tied up along her dock on Muskegon Lake. That was the first time anyone realized the Thomas Hume had disappeared. Michigan lumber barons and owners of the vessel, Charles Hackley and Thomas Hume (namesake of the vessel), requested a search of other ports and Lake Michigan, but nothing was found, not even debris. The loss of the Hume has been Con’t Page 2

The Explorer is a regular publication of MSRA distributed via email. For more information visit

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Elder and MSRA member and FGW crewman, Jim Scholz for arranging to host our team on the vessel in weather conditions that would normally call for a cancelation. We are certain the Hume crewman faced worse conditions, but for us landlubbers, seas were rough enough! Fortunately no people or sloops were hurt in the making of this film! Stay tuned for more information on this project. By Valerie van Heest

Comparison Photos Above: The Chicago dive team has tirelessly searched for positive confirmation of the identity of the ship. Although they have not yet found ships numbers, comparison of the historic photo to the wreck and measurements of the vessel confirm it as the Thomas Hume. There have been no other 132-foot three-masted schooners lost in the southern basin of the lake. A letter in a bottle found months after the sinking confirms the crews approximate position of the ship. Underwater video captures here and front page by Jeff Strunka. Sepia Photos: MSRA spent October 9th on board the Friends Good Will to film a reenactment of the final moments of the Voyage of the Thomas Hume. MSRA members Jeff Vos, Neel Zoss, Steve and Collin Kacmar, Jim Scholz and Craig Rich served as “doomed” crewmembers. New recruit, Larry Hatcher, (with long beard) served as the Captain. Photos by Steve Kacmar. Portrait at right: The schooner was named for and owned by Muskegon lumber Baron Thomas Hume. MSRA is working in conjunction will Hume’s great granddaughter to tell this incredible story. Photo courtesy of Lakeshore Museum Center.

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one of the great mysteries of Lake Michigan, as it is considered a ship which “sailed through a crack in the lake,” leaving no debris, or human remains to indicate what might have befell the ship. While the cold winds of October are here, this has not deterred MSRA from planning dives to the site. The wreck is located in deep water in the southern basin of Lake Michigan. Extensive video shot by Jeff Strunka shows that It sits up right and in excellent condition. The anchors and masts and ships rigging are all on site and the vessel appears to have gently come to rest on the bottom. Strunka’s video along with that by the MSRA team will provide a thorough documentation of the vessel. MSRA is planning one of the teams’ signature reenactments as a part of the documentary film that we will be writing and directing. Tom Palmisano and Jeff Strunka will serve as executive producers for the film. Our team acted quickly, taking advantage of the miserable weather of last weekend to film some sequences on board the Friends Good Will replica ship in South Haven owned and operated by the Michigan Maritime Museum. We would like to extend our thanks to the museum, Captain Mathew

Behind the scenes: MSRA reenactors, and camera operators Valerie van Heest and Craig Rich during the filming on Friends Good Will and at the beach. Photos by Steve and Collin Kacmar.


SRA’s web master Craig Rich has been at work updating pages on the MSRA web site. We have updated the diving page to provide an expanded map as several of the wrecks we have documented are located further north. Searching activities have still be focused largely off the Holland, Saugatuck and South Haven areas until such time as we have discovered those few nagging shipwrecks like the Chicora, Andaste and Flight 2501. Looking at this map, it truly amazing at how many new discoveries have been made since we turned up the Akeley in 2001. Underwater Photos: On September 13, 2009, Jack van Heest (above)

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“I Photos Above and Below: The remains of the Henry Cort (photos by Valerie van Heest) after its salvage lie snuggled up against the rocks that form the north breakwall at Muskegon. Surprisingly, it is a good dive with much to look at. The photo above shows the vessel at the time of its grounding.

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HMuskegon Shipwrecks

n late September, Jack and Valerie van Heest and Neel Zoss traveled up to Muskegon to dive on three of the wrecks that lie within a few miles of the channel. It was a marathon day as they visited the whaleback Henry Cort, which grounded in shallow water along Muskegon’s north breakwall in 1934, the Salvor, and the State of Michigan, the deepest of the three wrecks at 65 feet. Neel Zoss was particularly interested in the Cort, as he has written a book about the whaleback boats, entitled McDougall’s Great Lakes Whalebacks. We share with you their stories and some underwater images.

The Henry Cort

The steel whaleback propeller Pillsbury was built by the American Steel Barge Company at Superior, Wisconsin in 1892. She was launched with her sister ship the Washburn on June 22, 1892 at Superior. This 320 foot long, 42 foot wide, 2234 gross ton vessel was one of several built on the plans of Alexander McDougall who developed the whaleback design to handle bulk cargo on the Great Lakes. However, the Pillsbury was different from others since it was originally set up as a package freighter. She operated for the Minneapolis, St. Paul & Buffalo Steamship Company, part of the Soo Line Railroad Company out of Buffalo, New York from 1892 to 1896. In 1896, Rockefeller steel interests in the form of the Bessemer Steamship Company out of Duluth, Minnesota bought the Pillsbury, converted it to haul bulk iron ore like other whalebacks, and renamed it Henry Cort. In 1901 the Cort and many other vessels became part of the much larger U. S. Steel Corporation, and its subsidiary the Pittsburgh Steamship Company in Cleveland, Ohio. As the Henry Cort, she had an eventful career. On December 17, 1917 she sank in 30 feet of water, about 4 1/2 miles from Colchester Reef after a collision with the steamer Midvale while breaking ice in Lake Erie. The crew rescued themselves by walking across the ice to take shelter aboard the Midvale. The vessel was located the following April almost four miles from the reported collision site, with seven feet of water above her decks. She was finally raised after four attempts on September 22, 1918 and towed to Bar Point, then to the Toledo Ship Building Co. for major repairs. During this rebuild, the Cort was refitted with straight sides and a flattened deck. The Cort arrived at Conneaut, Ohio on October 17, 1918, for more rebuilding by the Pittsburgh Steamship Company and put back into operation. She later stranded on Colchester Reef in Lake Erie in 1927, was abandoned for the insurance value, and rebuilt and sold again. During this rebuild, she was converted to a crane vessel to allow her to operate as more of a self-unloader. The Cort was purchased this time by Andrew H. Green, Jr. of the Lake Ports Shipping & Navigation Company of Detroit, Michigan. In one other incident, this time in 1933, she was holed by ice in the Detroit River, while tied to the Nicholson Transit Company dock at Ecorse, Michigan and settled to the bottom. The Henry Cort ended her days wrecked on the north side of the Muskegon channel break wall in Muskegon, Michigan on November 30, 1934. The 320-foot whaleback steamer hit the heavy stone breakwater after encountering a storm packing 45 mph winds. The incident showcased a dramatic rescue by the crew of the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Escanaba that resulted in all 25 men on board reaching shore safely. One of the Coast Guard crew members died after being washed out of the boat. Hundreds on shore watched while the Coast Guard shot a line from the pier to the Henry Cort and all 25 men climbed hand over hand along the line to the pier. From there, the men huddled together and slowly made the trek along the slippery rocks of the breakwater dodg-

ing huge waves that broke over their heads. Broken in two by December’s winds and waves, she was declared a total loss. The vessel was scrapped in 1935. The wreck of the Henry Cort, while having been salvaged, still boasts two prominent boilers surrounded by several pieces of machinery. Even some of the rounded and riveted hull is still on site, offering a glimpse of the construction ofthis unique vessel. By Craig Rich

The State of Michigan

The State Of Michigan was built by Burger & Burger of Manitowoc in 1873 for the Goodrich Steamship Line, and originally bore the name Depere. She measured 165.0’ in length, with a beam of 29.0’, and drafted 10.0’ of water. Her home port was Detroit, Michigan. After serving in the Goodrich line until speedier and larger boats became a necessity, the Depere was sold to Stephen B. Grummond in 1892 for $20,000. It was then that her name underwent a change. At that time, Captain Grummond also had her rebuilt and substituted a powerful engine from a dismantled tug for the two small engines which she originally carried. She was profitably employed for some years between Detroit, Mackinaw City and intermediate ports and afterward ran for a short time between Detroit and Cleveland in opposition to the old established line. The failure of this move caused her to be laid up and made available for purchase. It was then that she passed into the hands of the Barry line of Chicago for a sum of $19,000. She was valued at $30,000 and was insured for $20,000. During her life on the lakes, the steamer was stranded twice - once while under the Goodrich flag near Manitowoc, where she spent an entire winter on the beach, and later while in the Grummond line on the Charities in Saginaw Bay. It was there she nearly was abandoned as a total loss. She even outlived the gale of 1888, in which the Alpena met her fate. On October 15, 1901, the Barry Line Steamer State Of Michigan sank at three o’clock in the morning about four miles northwest of White Lake harbor. The crew escaped in the boats, with the assistance of the U. S. Life Saving Service crew at White Lake. She had left Muskegon the previous night bound for Manistee with a cargo of salt destined for Chicago. When off White Lake, the piston rod of the engine broke, and according to the captain’s report, broke a hole through the bottom of the boat through which the water poured with such force and quantity that the engine hands were driven out of the room. The alarm was spread quickly and men were sent ashore for assistance. The accident occurred at 11 pm. The life saving crew and a tug went to her assistance and an attempt was made to tow the rapidly filling boat into port, but the water came in so fast that before she could be towed a mile inland she was abandoned to her fate and soon went down. Six years later, in the summer of 1908, the Staud Canalon Salvage Company went to work to salvage and raise the sunken steamer. By mid-autumn the salvagers reported the wreck covered with hundreds of tons of white sand, and unable to be raised. The State Of Michigan rests off Whitehall, Michigan in 65’ of water right where news reports placed her. She lies perpendicular to the shore line, with her bow pointed straight to the beach, which is directly east of the wreck. She is usually buoyed by local divers. Her engine is upright and intact, and her engine cylinder is the highest point of the wreck, rising 20’ off the bottom. The large boiler is still in place, making for excellent exploration opportunities. The hull has been severely damaged by salvage operations, ice, and time in general. The timbers of the hull bottom are still visible, with the bow being the most intact part of the wreck, besides the machinery.

Underwater Photo: Paul Chase took this haunting image of the State of Michigan showing the standing triple expansion steam engine. His wife Deb, served as model and photographer as well. They are active members of the West Michigan Underwater Preserve committee, which is working to have that preserve established as Michigan’s 12th official underwater preserve.

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Con’t From Page 5 MSRA Board of Directors Valerie Olson van Heest Geoffrey Reynolds Craig Rich Ross Richardson Jack van Heest

Associates William Lafferty, PhD Director of Research Arthur Allen Oceanographer, U.S.C.G. Brendon Baillod Historian/Writer Jed Jaworski Maritime Historian Dr. Guy Meadows University of Michigan Kenneth Pott Maritime Archaeologist Dr. David Schwab Oceanographer, GLERL Michigan Shipwreck Research Associates, is a Michigan 501(c) 3 nonprofit corporation, whose mission is to Preserve Michigan’s submerged maritime history. To that end, the organization’s work includes research, exploration, documentation and education regarding historic shipwrecks within Michigan waters, with an initial emphasis on the area off West Michigan. MSRA works in cooperation with State Agencies. As a Holland-based volunteer-driven organization, MSRA relies on memberships, fundraising events and grants to continue its work.

1134 Goodwood Court Holland, Michigan 49424 Page 6

Zebra mussels and shifting sand do their best to obscure certain parts of the wreck, especially near the stern, regularly cover and uncover. The State of Michigan makes a great beginner dive. By Ross Richardson

The Salvor

The Salvor began life as hull #248 — “The Turret Chief” —at the Doxford & Sons Shipbuilding Company in Sunderland, England in 1896. She was one of a new breed of vessel designed primarily to reduce harbor and canal fees, especially through the Suez Canal, which were based on flat deck space. The vessel’s design reduced horizontal deck space by sloping the ship’s sides inward to create a narrow deck. She was 253 feet in length and 44 feet wide, drawing 19.7 feet of water. According to the Toronto marine Historical Society: “During the 1890’s and early 1900s, more than 150 Turrets were built by Doxford and some of them were quite large. However, the popularity of the class began to wane after the turn of the century as large vessels were required and the advantage of lower canal and harbor dues was lost due to a change in the way these fees were calculated. The Turrets were rather difficult to unload as the narrow deck limited the width of hatches. Like their cousins, the Whalebacks, the turret ships had their day and lost their popularity when progress and the need for larger ships rendered them obsolete.” The Turret Chief was brought to the Great Lakes in 1907 when she was purchased by the Canadian Lake & Ocean Navigation Company Ltd. They held the vessel until 1913, when she was sold to the Canada Steamship Lines Ltd. and then to Entente Steamship Company in 1914. It was then she was renamed Vickerstown, followed by Jolly Inez in 1918. In 1922 she was sold to International Waterways Navigation Company Ltd., who ran her until 1927. T. L. Durocher Company of DeTour, Michigan was the last owner from 1927 through her loss in 1930, naming the vessel Salvor and changing her configuration to a steel barge to carry bulk freight in the tow of a tug. The vessel suffered a number of mishaps throughout her career. Her boiler exploded on Lake Superior on June 23, 1911, killing one man. She was stranded 6 miles east of Copper Harbor, Keweenaw Peninsula, Lake Superior, November 9, 1913 during the Big Blow, and abandoned. She was salvaged in 1914, and rebuilt at Port Arthur. As with many ships, she was requisitioned for war service 1914 and served as a munitions carrier between Britain and Archan-

gel. She returned to the Great Lakes in 1922. She was stranded under peculiar circumstances during a dense fog on Saddlebag Island, False DeTour Channel, Lake Huron, on November 16, 1927 and abandoned. She was salvaged by T. L. Durocher and converted to a barge. Her final voyage was September 26, 1930 when she broke away from the tug Richard Fitzgerald while bound from DeTour to Muskegon with a load of breakwater stone during storm on Lake Michigan. She foundered in 25 feet water, 2 2/3 miles north of Muskegon, Michigan about .4 miles off shore. Five lives were lost in the tragedy (one source says 11). The battered hull of the Salvor lies in 25' of water, just northwest of the Muskegon channel. Waves and ice, whose effects are multiplied by time, have bent, broken, and buried the hull, leaving the highest point of elevation of the wreck just a few feet off the bottom. The wreck lies north and south, but bow and stern are indiscernible. The hull’s massive, bent, metal plates are visible around the perimeter of the wreck. It is loaded with stone cargo, which is now the most prominent feature of the wreck. Gears, large bolts, and other tools are sometimes visible, when the shifting sand leaves them uncovered. The wreck is covered with zebra mussels and is home to a large colony of Gobi fish. The Salvor is a shallow, easy dive, but with few exciting features. By Craig Rich

MSRA is funded in part by an annual grant from the Great Research Foundation, a Wisconsin 501c3 MSRA is funded in Lakes part by Shipwreck an annual grant from founded by Stabelfeldt, Brad Friend and Jon Albrecht theKimm Great Lakes Shipwreck Research

MSRA Newsletter 16  

MSRA Newsletter 16

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