Exploring the Tragedy of the Fedora: A Shipwreck Tour on Lake Superior"
Updated: Jan 6
Imagine standing on the deck of a massive steam ship as it plows through the choppy waters of Lake Superior. The wind is whipping through your hair and the spray from the waves is cool against your skin. Suddenly, a kerosene lamp falls and sets the ship ablaze. You have just minutes to escape before the flames engulf you. This is the story of the Fedora, a ship that met its demise in the icy depths of Lake Superior over a century ago. Join us as we dive into the history of this tragic shipwreck and discover what remains of the Fedora today."
The Fedora was a steam screw vessel that operated on Lake Superior in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It was built in 1889 by the Frank W. Wheeler Shipbuilding Company in West Bay City, Michigan and was 282 feet long with a beam of 41.5 feet. The Fedora was used to transport iron ore and had a triple expansion steam engine with two scotch boilers and a single screw.
On September 20, 1901, the Fedora caught fire while sailing between Basswood Island and Red Cliff Bay in Lake Superior. The fire was caused by a kerosene lamp that fell in the engine room and spread quickly, despite efforts to control it. Captain Frank A. Fick decided to beach the vessel on a sandbar near Chicago Creek in order to launch the lifeboats and evacuate the crew. All 17 people on board, including the captain and two passengers, were able to escape safely, but the Fedora was completely destroyed in the fire and was a total loss, estimated at between $80,000 and $90,000.
The remains of the Fedora can still be found on the bottom of Lake Superior in 10 feet of water. The lower unburned hull is largely intact, but has been damaged by ice and scavenging. The site has also been heavily scavenged for surface objects, but the hull and some machinery were salvaged by the Red Cliff Lumber Company (or possibly the Great Lakes Steamship Company).
True North Sailing Charters occasionally visits the wreck site of the Fedora on our half or full day trips. It is a fascinating piece of history and a great opportunity to explore the underwater world of Lake Superior. Whether you are a seasoned diver or just want to learn more about shipwrecks, the Fedora is a must-see destination. So come along on a sailing adventure. With any luck we may catch a glimpse of the long lost Fedora.
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