Chester A. Congdon (ship)

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Chester CongdonWreck.jpg
Diving near the pilothouse of the Congdon
Name: Chester A. Congdon
Operator: Continental Steamship Company
Builder: Chicago Steam Boat Co.
Launched: 1907
Acquired: 1912
Out of service: November 6, 1918
Fate: Sunk on Congdon Shoals, northeast end of Isle Royale in Lake Superior
General characteristics
Type: Bulk steel freighter
Tonnage: 4843 tons
Length: 532 ft (162 m)
Beam: 56 ft (17 m)
Draft: 26 ft (7.9 m)
Installed power: 1,765 hp (1,316 kW)
Propulsion: triple expansion steam engine
Notes: Official Number 204526
Chester A. Congdon (ship) is located in Michigan
Chester A. Congdon (ship)
Chester A. Congdon (ship) is located in the US
Chester A. Congdon (ship)
Location Congdon Shoals, northeast end of Isle Royale National Park, Michigan[2]
Coordinates 48°11′36″N 88°30′52″W / 48.19333°N 88.51444°W / 48.19333; -88.51444Coordinates: 48°11′36″N 88°30′52″W / 48.19333°N 88.51444°W / 48.19333; -88.51444
Built 1907
Architect Chicago Steam Boat Co.
Architectural style Freighter
MPS Shipwrecks of Isle Royale National Park TR
NRHP reference # 84001716[1]
Added to NRHP June 14, 1984

The Chester A. Congdon was a bulk steel freighter named after the lawyer and capitalist of the same name. It was launched in 1907 and sank on November 6, 1918 in Lake Superior near Isle Royale. The wreckage remains at the bottom of the lake, and in 1984 was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.[1]


The Chester A. Congdon (Official Number 204526) was constructed in 1907 by the Chicago Ship Building Co. of South Chicago Illinois under the name Salt Lake City for Holmes Steamship Company of Cleveland, Ohio.[3] The ship was 532 feet long, having a 56-foot beam and 26 foot draft, with a gross tonnage of 6530 tons and a net tonnage of 4843 tons.[3] The ship was powered by a 1,765HP triple expansion steam engine with two Scotch boilers.[3]

In 1911, the Salt Lake City was sold to the Acme Transit Company of Ohio.[4] In early 1912,[4] the ship was purchased by the Continental Steamship Company and renamed the Chester A. Congdon, after the Duluth, Minnesota lawyer and industrialist Chester Adgate Congdon.[3] The ship's record was largely uneventful, but it was grounded twice, once in 1912 and once in 1915.[4]


On November 6, 1918,[3] the Congdon departed from Thunder Bay, Ontario with 380,000 bushels of wheat aboard.[3] Later that day, the Congdon ran aground in the fog at Canoe Rocks, near Isle Royale, which were subsequently renamed Congdon Shoal.[5] The captain immediately dispatched a boat to nearby Passage Island to request assistance and sent a second boat back to Thunder Bay.[3]

All crew members were rescued, and an attempt to salvage the cargo resulted in only about 20% being saved.[3] A storm on November 8 broke the freighter in two, and it sank.[3] Although another salvage operation was mounted later in 1918, nothing more was recovered from the wreck.[4] The Congdon is significant in that her wreck was the first on Lake Superior to be valued at over a million dollars, and was the largest loss up to that time in both dollar value and net tonnage.[6]

The Chester A. Congdon today[edit]

The wreckage of the Congdon sits in 50–200 feet of water, with the bow section on the south side of the reef and the stern on the north side.[5] The stern section is in considerably deeper water than the bow, and represents a more technical dive.[4] The bow section of the Congdon sank upright,[4] and the pilot house on the bow is still intact, a relatively rare occurrence.[3] Many of the ship's furnishings were salvaged while the ship was still on the reef.[3] Approximately 160 dives were made to the Congdon in 2009 out of 1062 dives made to wrecks in the Isle Royale National Park.[7]


  1. ^ a b National Park Service (2009-03-13). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  2. ^ The wreck is listed as "address restricted", but Isle Royale National Park permits public dives and publushes the location of the wreck. Coordinate location is per "The Wrecks of Isle Royale". Black Dog Diving. Archived from the original on July 14, 2011. Retrieved December 12, 2010. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Congdon Shipwreck". Retrieved December 10, 2010. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f Daniel Lenihan; Toni Carrell; Thom Holden; C. Patrick Labadie; Larry Murphy; Ken Vrana (1987), Daniel Lenihan, ed., Submerged Cultural Resources Study: Isle Royale National Park (PDF), Southwest Cultural Resources Center, pp. 169–174, 306–311 
  5. ^ a b "Scuba Diving". Isle Royal National Park, National Park Service. Retrieved December 10, 2010. 
  6. ^ Toni Carrell (September 1983), NATIONAL REGISTER OF HISTORIC PLACES INVENTORY - NOMINATION FORM: Shipwrecks of Isle Royale National Park Thematic Group (PDF) 
  7. ^ Pete Sweger (2010), "A Diver’s Experience" (PDF), The Greenstone 2010, p. 9 

Further reading[edit]