Friday, November 8, 2013

Great Lakes Storm of 1913

Here's another anniversary, but of a more serious nature than yesterday's Ghoulardi event. This Saturday is the 100th anniversary of the Great Lakes Storm of 1913, the deadliest natural disaster ever to hit the lakes.

It had a Lorain angle too, as you will see when you read the story below, which appeared in The Lorain Journal on Nov. 7, 1963.


Lorainite Recalls Raging Lake Storm of '13

Ex-Seamen Alfred Hacke, (L)
'Ernie' Williams Recall Disaster
Just 50 years ago this Saturday the worst storm in Great Lakes history took a toll of more than 30 ships and 254 seamen.

Great Lake sailors still shudder at the terrible wintry "blow" of 1913.

Alfred Hacke, 821 13th St., now 79, was one who survived for four days in a ship foundering on the storm-battered shore of Lake Superior.

He took a train home and has never sailed since.

Hacke and his long-time friend, A. E. "Ernie" Williams, 1413 S. Lakeview Blvd., often talk over the lakes' greatest disaster.

Williams, who was also on the lakes at the time and is a shipping hobbyist, had just reached port in Lake Erie when the storm broke.

Of the 10 bigger ships listed by the World's Almanac as victims of the storm with a loss of 20 to 30 seamen in each case, five were built in the Lorain shipyards.

The World's Almanac, in its laconic, unemotional style, gives the blunt facts:

"Nov. 9, 1913 – Storm destroyed on Lake Superior, Henry B. Smith 26 (lives lost), Leafield 18; on Lake Huron, John A. McGean 23, Charles Price 28, Isaac M. Scott 26, Hydrus 24, Argus 24, James Carothers 22, Regina 25, Wexford 24."

The toll of dead from these ships alone adds up to 240. But there were many more.

The McGean, Price, Scott, Hydrus and Argus were Lorain-built ships.

The storm roared the length of the lakes for five days, but concentrated its fury particularly in Lake Superior and in the southern end of Lake Huron.

One vessel, the G. J. Grammer, was driven ashore off Century Park in Lorain. The crew was rescued.

As 1913 Great Lakes Storm
Battered Foundering L. C. Waldo
In spite of a rough four-day ordeal for the 26-man crew, Hacke feels that his own ship, the L. C. Waldo, was one of the more fortunate. Hacke was an oiler on the ship.

A day out of Two Harbors, Minn., with a load of ore, the Waldo was hit suddenly by 90 to 100-mile winds and a snow and ice storm.

With the shoe and rudder lost, it drifted aimlessly and pounded ashore at Manitou Island, near the west end of Lake Superior.

High waves split the ship at the middle and smashed the rear of the boat. Aboard were the cook's wife and mother and "Capt. Henry Duddleson's dog" in addition to the crew.

The location was an isolated point many miles from any habitation.

The 26 people on board huddled in an ice-coated cubicle of living compartments in the forepart of the ship and tried to stay alive, Hacke relates.

To keep warm a stove was improvised from an iron tub, a metal stack was devised and the wainscoting from the captain's quarters was chopped up and used as fuel.

Food was a more difficult problem. Hacke and a fellow crew member crawled to the rear and found two big tins of food that had not been washed away.

The label had been washed from the tins, but it was decided that whatever was in the tins would be put together as a mulligan stew. In the tins were peaches and peas.

With no means of communication with the outside world, the crew did not know how or when they would be found. But on the fourth day a tug showed up, rescued all 26 on board, took the group to Houghton, Mich., and put them on a train heading south.

The Waldo held together long enough to be patched up and towed to Lorain, where it was repaired at the Lorain shipyards. At last report, it was still sailing the lakes as the Mohawk Deer, for the Upper St. Lawrence Navigation Co.

As for Hacke, he became a stationary engineer at the Bessemer Power House at the Lorain National Tube Division, Lorain Works. He retired from the plant in 1954 after about 32 years of service.

The storm was blamed on the collision of two mighty hurricanes, one rolling out of the south seas across Lake Michigan to meet the second, roaring north above Lake Superior.

The "graveyard" of ships was in the 100 miles above Port Huron, where the hurricanes met for the second time and consumed, according to Detroit historians, 13 of the finest and newest steel-hulled freighters.

Even new steel-hulled freighters were no match for the 80-90 mile winds and waves whose crests were often 70 feet high.


Paula said...

Hi Dan,

Great article on the Storm of 1913! So many ships and sailors lost - glad that you brought all of them back in memory...
There's a wonderful book about this called "White Hurricane: A Great Lakes Gale and America's Deadliest Maritime Disaster" by David G. Brown...


Drew Penfield said...

Paula, I have read White Hurricane as well (twice!) and I agree it is an excellent book for anyone interested in more about this historic storm.

1913 was a rough year for the Great Lakes. Major floods all across Ohio earlier in the year, and then the horrible November storm.