Lake freighter

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SS Arthur M. Anderson, with pilothouse forward and engine room astern, also equipped with a self-unloading boom.

Lake freighters, or lakers, are bulk carrier vessels that operate on the Great Lakes of North America. These vessels are traditionally called boats, although classified as ships.[1][2]

Since the late 19th century, lakers have carried bulk cargoes of materials such as limestone, iron ore, grain, coal, or salt from the mines and fields of the upper Great Lakes to the populous industrial areas farther east. The 63 commercial ports handled 173 million tons (157 teragrams) of cargo in 2006.[3] Because of winter ice on the lakes, the navigation season is not usually year-round. The Soo Locks and Welland Canal close from mid-January to late March, when most boats are laid up for maintenance. Crew members spend these months ashore.

Depending on their application, lakers may also be referred to by their types, such as oreboats or ironboats (primarily for iron ore), straight deckers (no self-unloading gear), bulkers (carry bulk cargo), sternenders (all cabins aft), self unloaders (with self-unloading gear), longboats (for their slender appearance), or lakeboats, among others.

In the mid-20th century, 300 lakers worked the lakes, but by the early 21st century, there were fewer than 140 active lakers.[4] SS Edmund Fitzgerald, which sank in 1975, became widely known as the largest and most recent major vessel to be wrecked on the Great Lakes.

Lakers vs. salties[edit]

By way of the Saint Lawrence Seaway, smaller lakers have access to the Atlantic Ocean, and some ocean-going vessels have access to the lakes. Visiting ocean-going vessels are called "salties". Many modern ocean-going vessels are too large for the relatively small locks on the Saint Lawrence Seaway, so large salties cannot travel farther inland than Montreal, Quebec.[citation needed]

Because one of the Soo Locks is larger than any Seaway lock, salties that can pass through the Seaway may travel anywhere in the Great Lakes. Conversely, the largest lakers are confined to the upper lakes (Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie) because they are too large to use the Seaway locks, beginning at the Welland Canal that bypasses the Niagara River.[citation needed]

Because of their deeper draft and the lower buoyancy of fresh water, salties may accept partial loads on the Great Lakes, "topping off" upon exiting the Seaway.[citation needed]


Average yearly cargoes — 2002–2007
(million tons)
Iron ore 60.0
Coal 41.3
Limestone 37.7
Grain 12.0
Salt 8.8
Cement 5.2
Potash 0.6
Total 164.6
Source: Great Lakes Dry-Bulk Commerce,
2007 Statistical Annual Report,
Lake Carriers’ Association

Lakers are generally bulk carriers; that is, they carry cargoes of rock, ore, salt or grain in large contiguous holds, not packed in containers. The earlier ships required rail cars unloading on ore docks and unloading machinery at the receiving docks,[5] but modern lakers are self unloaders, allowing them to unload faster and in more ports.[citation needed]

The most common cargoes on the Great Lakes are taconite, limestone, grain, salt, coal, cement, gypsum, sand, slag, and potash. Much of the cargo supplies the steel mills of the auto industry, centered around the Great Lakes because of the ease of transport. Other destinations include coal-fired power plants, highway department salt domes, and stone docks, where limestone is unloaded for the construction industry. U.S.-flagged freighters carried the largest portion of the trade, accounting for two-thirds of all cargo by weight. U.S. hulls carried most of the iron, limestone and cement, while Canadian boats carried most of the potash, and almost all of the salt and grain moved on the lakes.[citation needed]

Cason J. Callaway laid up in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. (2021)

Destination harbors, ship sizes and legal restrictions greatly affect the pattern of haulage. Large U.S. ships hauled most of the iron ore on the lakes (79%) from U.S. mines to U.S. mills. This reflects the requirement of the Jones Act, as well as the industry using large volumes of material while being concentrated in a few large harbor locations. Salt and Canadian grain can be hauled to numerous smaller ports of either country on smaller, mostly Canadian, ships, which can also enter the St. Lawrence Seaway with the Canadian ports of Montreal and Quebec City.[citation needed]


1000-footer George A. Stinson (now American Spirit) pounds through Lake Huron waves.

The largest vessels on the lakes are the 1000-footers (300 m). These vessels are between 1,000 and 1,013.5 feet (304.8 and 308.9 m) long, 105 feet (32 m) wide and of 56 ft (17 m) hull depth. They can carry as much as 78,850 long tons (80,120 t) of bulk cargo although their loading is dependent on lake water levels especially in the channels and ports. A dozen of these ships were built between 1976 and 1981, and all remain in service today. The most powerful is MV Edwin H. Gott,[6] which carried two Enterprise DMRV-16-4 diesel engines driving twin propellers and was rated at 19,500 brake horsepower (14,500 kW), making her the most powerful boat on the lakes. This allowed a top speed of 16.7 miles per hour (14.5 kn; 26.9 km/h).[7] MV Edwin H. Gott was repowered in 2011 with two MaK/Caterpillar 8M43C engines, each rated at 9,650 brake horsepower (7,200 kW),[8] and other laker freighters have been repowered as well. MV Paul R. Tregurtha is the largest boat on the lakes, at 1,013 feet 6 inches (308.91 m) and capable of loading 68,000 tons of bulk cargo.[citation needed]

Stewart J. Cort was the first 1000-footer to be put into service on the lakes and also the only one built in the traditional wheelhouse-forward Great Lakes style (although all accommodations are forward, and the stern deckhouse is occupied by self unloading equipment and the engines). Stewart J. Cort started life in Mississippi as Hull 1173, consisting of only the bow and stern sections (and appropriately nicknamed "Stubby"). From there, she was sailed to Erie, Pennsylvania, where she was cut in half and an additional 800+ feet of hull were added.[9] Another interesting 1000-footer is Presque Isle, an integrated tug and barge combination. Presque Isle is the largest tug / barge composite in the world.[citation needed]

All of the 1000-footers are U.S. vessels. The Canadian fleet needs to travel to and from its major cities along the St. Lawrence Seaway, so the largest length for the Canadian vessels is 740 feet (230 m) (Seawaymax-size). The reason for this standard length is the Welland Canal, which bypasses the Niagara Falls. The locks here are roughly 800 feet (240 m) long, which limits the maximum length of the vessels for safety reasons.

Another reason for the lack of larger Canadian vessels is legislative in nature. Larger ships on the lakes are generally used to transport American-mined ore bound for American mills. Because of the Jones Act of 1920, only American ships can carry ore from American mines to American mills in American ports; ergo, larger Canadian ships are not needed.[citation needed]

More common are lake boats in the 600-and-700-foot (180 and 210 m) classes, because of the limitations of the Welland Canal. These vessels vary greatly in configuration and cargo capacity, being capable of hauling between 10,000 and 40,000 tons per trip depending on the individual boat. These smaller boats can serve smaller harbors around the lakes which have irregular need for their services. The latest major vessel built for bulk cargoes on the lakes is the articulated tug/barge combination Ken Boothe Sr./Lakes Contender. The 740-foot barge Lakes Contender and the 135-foot (41 m) tug Ken Boothe Sr. entered service in 2012.[citation needed]

List of 1000-footers on the lakes[edit]

List of 1000-footers operating on the Great Lakes
Name Type Dimensions Tonnage Notes
American Integrity Bulk Freighter (self unloading) 1,000 ft x 105 ft 89,000 tons
American Spirit Bulk Freighter (self unloading) 1,004 ft x 105 ft 80,900 tons
American Century Bulk Freighter (self unloading) 1,000 ft x 105 ft 73,700 tons
Edgar B. Speer Bulk Freighter (self unloading) 1,004 ft x 105 ft 80,900 tons
Edwin H. Gott Bulk Freighter (self unloading) 1,000 ft x 105 ft Most powerful engines on the Great Lakes
James R. Barker Bulk Freighter (self unloading) 1,000 ft x 105 ft First standard construction 1000-footer.
Mesabi Miner Bulk Freighter (self unloading) 1,004 ft x 105 ft
Paul R. Tregurtha Bulk Freighter (self unloading) 1,013.5 ft x 105 ft Largest vessel operating on the Great Lakes
Stewart J. Cort Bulk Freighter (self unloading) 1,000 ft x 105 ft First 1000-footer on the lakes[10]
Burns Harbor Bulk Freighter (self unloading) 1,000 ft x 105 ft
Indiana Harbor Bulk Freighter (self unloading) 1,000 ft x 105 ft
Walter J. McCarthy Jr. Bulk Freighter (self unloading) 1,000 ft x 105 ft 80,120 tons Highest cargo capacity (78,850 long tons [88,310 short tons; 80,120 t])
Presque Isle Tug/Barge Combination 1,000 ft x 104 ft 7 in Only 1000-ft tug/barge combination unit
Self-unloading freighter discharging bulk cargo at Duluth, Minnesota.
Freighter James R Barker passing through the Straits of Mackinac


MV John B. Aird, a laker with a single aft superstructure.

Because these vessels must traverse the locks of the Great Lakes Waterway, they all have features in common, and their appearance differs from similarly sized ocean-going freighters. For instance, they are narrower and generally longer. An early variation of the type (designed by Alexander McDougall and built from 1887 through 1898) was the "whaleback" design, which featured significant tumblehome in the sides of the hull and a rounded bow, looking rather like the back of a whale. Whereas the superstructure of an ordinary freighter had the bridge in the center of the vessel, beginning in the late 1800s lake freighters typically had the bridge and associated superstructure at the bow.[citation needed] Traditionally they had a second island, over the engine room in the stern. These dual-cabin boats were constructed between 1869 and 1974. R. J. Hackett premiered the style, and the second Algosoo was the final vessel designed this way.[citation needed] More recently built lakers, like CSL Niagara, have a single large superstructure island at the stern.

A lake freighter leaving the Soo Locks (bottom right). Michigan on right foreground, Ontario left and background.

Vessel speeds are not as important on the lakes as on the ocean. Ports are often closer together than in ocean trade, so cargo capacity is more important than speed. Lake vessels are designed with the greatest block coefficient to maximize the vessel's size in the locks within the Great Lakes/St Lawrence Seaway system. Therefore, ship designers have favored bluff bows over streamlined bows. After World War II, several ocean freighters and tankers were transported to the Great Lakes and converted to bulk carriers as a way to acquire ships cheaply. Several of them continue to sail today (e.g., Lee A. Tregurtha and a few others).

Another distinguishing feature of lake vessels versus ocean vessels is the cargo hatch configuration. On the lake vessels, the hatches are traditionally spaced 24 feet (7.3 m) apart. This configuration was needed to match the hatches to the loading facilities. At the turn of the 19th century, most ore loading facilities had loading chutes spaced every 12 feet (3.7 m). The ship designers used this pattern for their hatch configuration. This pattern continues today, even with modern lake vessels, therefore a lake vessel has many more hatches than an ocean vessel of equal length.

The largest deep lock at the Soo Locks is Poe Lock which is 1,200 feet (370 m) long and 110 feet (34 m) wide. Because of size restrictions, there are currently thirty vessels on the lakes that can only pass between Lake Superior and Lake Huron using Poe Lock, although none approaches the lock's size. Many lakers are restricted to the Great Lakes, being unable to navigate the St Lawrence Seaway whose locks allow a maximum vessel size of 740 feet (230 m) in length and 78 feet (24 m) in breadth. The shallow draft imposed by the rivers (the controlling depths of 27 feet (8.2 m) in the St. Marys River and 21 feet (6.4 m) in Lake St. Clair[11]) restricts the cargo capacity of lakers, but that is partially recovered by their extra length and box design. Since Great Lakes waves do not achieve the great length or period of ocean waves, particularly compared to the waves' height, ships are in less danger of being suspended between two waves and breaking, so the ratio between the ship's length, beam and its depth can be larger than that of an ocean-going ship. The lake vessels generally have a 10:1 length to beam ratio, whereas ocean vessels are typically 7:1. The dimensions of the locks is the determining factor in lake vessel construction.


In 2006, J. B. Ford (left) in use for cement storage at age 102 with J. A. W. Iglehart (right) in her last month of a 70-year sailing career, which included surviving a U-boat attack in the Atlantic during World War II.

Since the fresh water lakes are less corrosive to ships than the salt water of the oceans, many of the lakers remain in service for long periods, and the fleet has a much higher average age than the ocean-going fleet.[12] The average lifespan of a laker is 40–50 years.[13] Until 2014, SS St. Marys Challenger, built in 1906 as William P. Snyder (552 ft, 168 m), was the oldest ship in active duty on the lakes. She was managed by Port City Steamship and owned by St. Mary's Cement, a subsidiary of Votorantim Cimentos. E. M. Ford had one of the longest careers, having been built in 1898 (as Presque Isle – 428 ft, 130 m) and still sailing the lakes 98 years later in 1996. In 2007, she was still afloat as a stationary transfer vessel at a riverside cement silo in Saginaw. She went to the scrap yard in November 2010 at Purvis Marine in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. J. B. Ford, built in 1904, last sailed in 1985 and in 2007 served in the same capacity as E. M. Ford at a cement silo in Superior, Wisconsin. Several decorated World War II veteran ships are still in active, although civilian, use such as the tankers Chiwawa and Neshanic (scrapped 2018),[14] now the bulk freighters Lee A. Tregurtha and American Victory, respectively, and the Landing Craft Tank 203, now the working vessel Outer Island.[citation needed]

Newest freighters[edit]

Some shipping companies are building new freighters to ply the waters of the Great Lakes. The following are new freighters in use or will be launched for use in the Great Lakes:

Ship losses and incidents[edit]

Cedarglen beset in ice during a December trip until freed by two US Coast Guard icebreakers.

The Great Lakes have a long history of shipwreck, groundings, storms and collisions. From the 1679 sinking of Le Griffon with its cargo of furs to the 1975 loss of Edmund Fitzgerald, thousands of ships and thousands of lives have been lost, and many involved vessels in the cargo trade. The Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum uses the approximate figures of 6,000 ships and 30,000 lives lost.[19] David D. Swayze has compiled a list which details over 4,750 well-documented shipwrecks, mostly of commercial vessels and a list of known names of over 5,000 victims of those sinkings.[20] Maritime historian Mark Thompson reports that based on nautical records, nearly 6,000 shipwrecks on the Great Lakes occurred between 1878 and 1994, with about a quarter of those being listed as total losses with a total of 1,166 lives lost.[21]

The most recent losses of modern lakers were:

  • SS Superior City, August 20, 1920, Lake Superior, 29 of 33 crew died, (collision with freighter Willis L. King)
  • SS Emperor, June 4, 1947, Lake Superior, 12 of 33 crew died, (ran to rocks at Isle Royale)
  • SS Henry Steinbrenner, May 11, 1953, Lake Superior, 17 of 31 crew died, (flooded after the cargo hatch covers were lost during a storm)
  • SS Scotiadoc, June 20, 1953, Lake Superior, 1 of 29 crew died, (rammed by freighter Burlington in heavy fog)
  • SS Carl D. Bradley, November 18, 1958, Lake Michigan, 33 of 35 crew died, (split in half by hogging during a storm)[22]
  • SS Cedarville, May 7, 1965, Straits of Mackinac, 10 of 35 crew died, (collision with the saltie Topdalsfjord)
  • SS Daniel J. Morrell, November 29, 1966, Lake Huron, 28 of 29 crew died, (split in half by hogging during a storm)
  • SS Edmund Fitzgerald, November 10, 1975, Lake Superior, 29 of 29 crew died, (unknown cause during a storm)

The salties Prins Willem V and Monrovia also sank in the Great Lakes during the 1950s; both in collisions with other ships. The saltie Francisco Morazan was a total loss after running aground off South Manitou Island on November 29, 1960. Another saltie Nordmeer grounded on Thunder Bay Island Shoal in November 1966, but before it could be refloated, it was further damaged in the same storm that sank the Morrell and was declared a total loss.

Ships on the lakes have been involved in many lesser incidents. Lakers have been subject to frequent groundings in ports and channels because of varying lake levels and silting, collisions with objects (such as the 1993 collision of the Indiana Harbor with the Lansing Shoals Light Station),[21] icing in during winter trips and shipboard fires (including the unusual case in 2001 where a drawbridge ran into the Canadian grain carrier Windoc causing a fire). To prevent collisions and groundings, the Great Lakes are well-served with lighthouses and lights, and floating navigation aids. The U.S. Coast Guard and Canadian Coast Guard maintain stations around the Great Lakes including icebreakers and rescue helicopters. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other agencies maintain the harbors and seaways to limit groundings by dredging and seawalling.[23]

November was the traditional last month of shipping before the winter layup (and lake freeze-up). During November, much of the worst weather of the navigation season occurs which has resulted in a disproportionate number of accidents. One study shows that over half of all strandings and one-third of all vessels lost to foundering between 1900–1950 were lost during November.[24]

Famous vessels[edit]

SS Edward L. Ryerson

The most famous laker was SS Edmund Fitzgerald (popularized by Gordon Lightfoot's song "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" in 1976), which sank on Lake Superior on November 10, 1975. Edmund Fitzgerald was the first boat with a length of 729 feet (222 m) and was the flagship of the Columbia Steamship Division of Oglebay Norton Co. MV Stewart J. Cort was the first of the 1,000-foot (300 m) oreboats.

The first laker with self-unloading equipment was Hennepin (formerly George H. Dyer) a small wooden laker that was refitted with the equipment in 1902. The first laker built as a self-unloader was Wyandotte launched in 1908. Before these, all boats were unloaded with shoreside equipment. Self-unloading equipment worked well for cargoes that could "flow" out of the holds onto belts, such as coal and limestone. It did not work well for grain, which flowed too readily and would spill off the conveyors, or iron ore, which would not flow well and would hang up in the hold. Because the predominant cargo for lakers was iron ore, self-unloaders did not become common until higher grade ores were depleted and taconite pellets were developed in the 1970s.

Steam power first appeared in the 1860s and became the standard source of power for over a century. The Canadian grainboat Feux Follets of 1967 was the last laker to be built with a steam turbine and thus was the last steamer built on the lakes. Ford Motor Company's Henry Ford II and Benson Ford of 1924 were the first lakeboats with diesel engines. Diesel powerplants did not become standard until the 1970s. The last active ship of 1920s vintage, and the oldest ship still operating in non-specialized bulk trades is the motor vessel Maumee of Lower Lakes Transportation. She was built as William G Clyde for US Steel. S. T. Crapo, inactive since 1996, was built to haul cement for Huron Cement Co. back in 1927 and was the second ship of that design, the first being John G Boardman of the same company. S. T. Crapo was the last coal burning freighter on the Great Lakes.

The classic design of cabins fore-and-aft with open decks over the hold started with the 208-foot (63 m) long R. J. Hackett, designed and built by Elihu Peck in 1869. The first iron-hulled laker was Brunswick, launched at Detroit in 1881. Brunswick sank after a collision later that year and was apparently little known. Many follow the lead of the contemporary Cleveland press and credit Onoko as the first iron-hulled laker, launched in 1882. Onoko's higher center section did become a standard for later lakers. At 302 feet (92 m), Onoko was the first bulk carrier to hold the unofficial title of "Queen of the Lakes" (longest vessel on the lakes). SS Carl D. Bradley (1927–1958 640 ft, 200 m) held the title for 22 years, longer than any other laker of the classic design. Carl D. Bradley is also known for breaking her back and foundering in a Lake Michigan storm in 1958. There were only two survivors.

Paul R. Tregurtha on winter lay-up in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, on February 19, 2008.

Currently the title of "Queen of the Lakes" is held by the modern stern-ender Paul R. Tregurtha. Launched in 1981 as William J. Delancy, and measuring 1,013.5 feet (308.9 m), Paul R. Tregurtha has held the title since her launch. Wilfred Sykes (1949 – 678 ft, 207 m) is considered to be the first of the modern lakers, and when converted to a self-unloader in 1975 was the first to have the equipment mounted aft. Since then all self-unloading equipment has been mounted aft. Algoisle (formerly Silver Isle) (1962 – 715.9 ft, 218.2 m) was the first modern laker built with all cabins aft (a "stern-ender"), following the lead of ocean-going bulk carriers and reprising a century old form used by little river steam barges and the whalebacks. Stewart J. Cort (1971) was the first 1,000-footer and the only "footer" built in the classic cabins-fore-and-aft style. Algosoo (1974–2015 730 ft, 220 m) was the last laker built in the classic style.

Also of note is the steamer Edward L. Ryerson, widely known for her artistic design and being the only remaining straight-decked (without self unloading machinery) freighter still in active service on the US side of the Great Lakes (the only other US straight decker still listed, John Sherwin, has not sailed since 1981 and is currently docked in Detour, Michigan after conversion to a self-unloader and repowering was halted in November 2008).[25] In the summer of 2006, Edward L. Ryerson was fitted out and put into service following a long-term lay-up that began in 1998. Edward L. Ryerson was often used as a museum boat for tours. She was put back into service because of a lack of reliable hulls on the lakes, and a need for more tonnage.[citation needed] (The Canadian fleet retains a number of active straight-deckers for use in transporting grain, which is not well suited for self-unloading equipment. Most US grain is currently transported by rail.)

Serving as the setting of the movie version of David Mamet's play Lakeboat, the Canadian straight decker Seaway Queen, formerly owned by Upper Lakes Shipping and since scrapped (see below), temporarily flew a U.S. flag and displayed Chicago as her homeport for some shots.

Museum ships and boats, surviving hulls[edit]

Cleveland, Ohio[edit]

William G. Mather, a laker built in 1925 and a former flagship for the Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Company, has been turned into a maritime museum and is open to the public in Cleveland in the North Coast Harbor.

MV Maumee, one of the long-lived bulk freighters on the Lakes, unloads in Holland, Michigan. Scrapped in 2012 when she was 83 years old.

Duluth-Superior, Minnesota-Wisconsin[edit]

William A. Irvin was named for the president of U.S. Steel at the time of her launching and served as the flagship of US Steel's Great Lakes fleet from her launch in 1938 to 1975. She was the first laker to incorporate welding in its design and is open for tours at the Great Lakes Floating Maritime Museum in Duluth, Minnesota. Another museum ship, Meteor, is the last surviving ship of the whaleback design, and is a museum in Superior, Wisconsin, which was the location of the American Steel Barge Company, where the whalebacks were built. McDougall Duluth Shipbuilding Company built lakers in Duluth.[26][27][28][29]

Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan[edit]

Valley Camp was built in 1917 and served the National Steel Corporation, the Republic Steel Corporation, and Wilson Transit Co. during her 1917–1966 working life. She became a museum ship on the waterfront of the 'American Soo', east of the Soo Locks, in 1968. She holds many relics of the sinking of Edmund Fitzgerald including two of Edmund Fitzgerald's mauled lifeboats.[30]

Toledo, Ohio[edit]

Willis B. Boyer and Buckeye in the Maumee River, Toledo. Buckeye was later converted to a barge and renamed Lewis J. Kuber and currently is named Menominee.

SS Col. James M. Schoonmaker is a former Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Company vessel that sailed from 1911 to 1980. She was originally owned by the Shenango Furnace Company, but renamed the Willis B. Boyer under Cleveland Cliffs ownership. Col. James M. Schoonmaker was the largest bulk freighter in the world when commissioned. In one of the most ambitious Great Lakes ship restorations to date, Col. James M. Schoonmaker was re-christened July 1, 2011, on the 100th anniversary of the ship's launching in Toledo.[31] She was open to the public for many years as a museum at International Park in Toledo, Ohio but was moved October 27, 2012, to a location downriver, next to the new home of the National Museum of the Great Lakes. She reopened to the public in Spring 2014, when the museum opened.[32]

Other surviving hulls and partial ships[edit]

DeTour, Michigan[edit]

Lewis G. Harriman's bow and bow superstructure are preserved here. Lewis G. Harriman, launched as the purpose-built cement steamer John W. Boardman, was scrapped but the bow was saved as a DeTour residence. Recently restored to the Boardman colors.

Put-In-Bay, Ohio[edit]

Benson Ford was named after Henry Ford's grandson, and was the flagship of the Ford Motor Company (1924). The forward cabin is now located on a cliff on South Bass Island in Lake Erie, where it was moved in 1986 by Frank J. Sullivan and Lydia Sullivan from Cleveland, Ohio. It is a private museum residence owned by Bryan Kasper of Sandusky, Ohio since 1999. It has been featured in many magazines and national television shows such as HGtv's Extreme Homes and Travel Channel's Extreme Vacation Homes.

Mississauga, Ontario[edit]

SS Ridgetown was partially sunk as a breakwater (with stack and cabins intact) near Toronto at Port Credit. It was built in 1905 and is one of the oldest surviving hulls on the lake. Its silhouette provides an example of the appearance of early 1900s lake freighters.

Detroit, Michigan[edit]

The pilot house of William Clay Ford is part of the Dossin Great Lakes Museum on Belle Isle.[33] The pilot house is open for tours and overlooks the Detroit River.

Failed museum attempts, ships scrapped[edit]

A modern laker, Earl W. (now Manitowoc), passes the Renaissance Center in Detroit, Michigan.

Several other lakers nearly became museums, but were scrapped for lack of funding, political opposition, and other causes.

  • Lewis G. Harriman: a 1923 purpose-built cement carrier, the first of her kind, that sailed from her launch until 1980. Used as a storage barge until 2003, a group tried to save her but bad communications within the company saw the ship sold in 2004 and scrapped in Sault Ste. Marie by Purvis Marine. The majority of the hull was fed to the Algoma Steel Mill but the forecastle was saved as a summer cottage at Detour, Michigan.
  • SS Niagara: 1897-built freighter, later converted to a sand-sucker. Scrapped in 1997 by Liberty Iron & Metal of Erie, Pennsylvania, after a failed attempt to convert her into a museum in Erie. She had been saved from the scrapyard 11 years earlier.
  • John Ericsson: The second-to-last whaleback freighter. John Ericsson was scrapped in 1969 in the city of Hamilton, Ontario. Politics, as was the case with Canadiana, played a central role in the loss of the ship.
  • SS Seaway Queen: The Canadian straight decker Seaway Queen, formerly owned by Upper Lakes Shipping, and the setting for the movie version of David Mamet's play Lakeboat, was involved in an attempt to save her as a museum. In the end, the company failed to locate an organization that was capable and willing to preserve her and she was sold and scrapped in Alang, India, in 2004.
  • J. B. Ford: 1904 freighter that survived the 1905 Mataafa storm and the Great Lakes Storm of 1913 with the last three-cycle reciprocating steam engine was too expensive to turn into a museum and was sent to Azcon Metals in Duluth to be scrapped in 2015.[34]

Future museum potential[edit]

Roger Blough in Milwaukee for winter layup in February 2014
  • Cement steamers: The cement fleet of steamers is rapidly being supplanted by tug/barge combinations like the Integrity and Innovation. Historic cement carriers include the St. Marys Challenger (1906), J. A. W. Iglehart (1936) and the SS Alpena (1942). The SS St. Marys Challenger has been converted into a barge, though her wheelhouse is sitting on a dock in Toledo, Ohio, waiting to become part of the National Museum of the Great Lakes.
  • SS Arthur M. Anderson. launched in 1952, is still running. She is famous for having had the last contact with Edmund Fitzgerald before the latter sank. She was also the first would-be rescue vessel to search for Edmund Fitzgerald.
  • SS Lee A Tregurtha is the second oldest being notable for being a former US Navy fleet oiler and being a surviving Cleveland Cliffs vessel.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Brown, Chris W. III; Young, Claiborne S. (1998). Cruising Guide to New York Waterways & Lake Champlain (1st ed.). Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing. p. 53. ISBN 9781565542501. Retrieved November 15, 2012.
  2. ^ Thompson, Mark L. (1991). Steamboats & Sailors of the Great Lakes. Wayne State University Press. p. 30. ISBN 9780814323595. Retrieved November 17, 2012.
  3. ^ Welcome to Great Lakes Shipping, quoting the US Army Corps of Engineers.
  4. ^ "Ship fans mourn scrapping of the Calumet". The Grand Rapids Press. December 30, 2007. Retrieved July 7, 2008 – via
  5. ^ "Giant Jaws Upload Ore Ship." Popular Mechanics, May 1953, pp. 74–77.
  6. ^ "Edwin H. Gott".
  7. ^ Bawal, Raymond A. (2011). Superships of the Great Lakes: Thousand-foot Ships on the Great Lakes. Inland Expressions. p. 55. ISBN 978-0-9818157-4-9.
  8. ^ "M/V Gott Repowering Project Completion" (PDF). Quarterly Update. Great Lakes Maritime Research Institute. April 2011.
  9. ^ "Great Lakes Fleet Page Vessel Feature -- Stewart J. Cort". Boat Nerd.
  10. ^ Stewart J. Cort
  11. ^ NOAA charts 14883 and 14850, respectively.
  12. ^ International Maritime Organization (September 1999). "IMO and the safety of bulk carriers" (PDF). Focus on IMO. p. 6. Archived from the original (PDF) on April 14, 2008. Retrieved April 9, 2007.
  13. ^ Welcome to Great Lakes Shipping, Know Your Ships.
  14. ^ "American Victory, Middletown, Pioneer Challenger, Gulfoil, USS Neshanic (AO-71), Marquette". Retrieved August 7, 2019.
  15. ^ "Fleet Renewal". Archived from the original on January 30, 2011. Retrieved April 21, 2011.
  16. ^ a b "SMT Announces Equinox Class of Newbuild Vessels" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on July 27, 2011. Retrieved April 21, 2011.
  17. ^ Canadian company orders five lakers, Wheat Board orders two others[permanent dead link], John Snyder, Issue #149, August 2011
  18. ^ Lofton, Justine (July 6, 2022). "First new ship built for the Great Lakes in 35 years is underway". Michigan Live. Archived from the original on July 17, 2022. Retrieved July 26, 2022.
  19. ^ Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum Archived December 17, 2009, at the Wayback Machine, accessed February 28, 2009
  20. ^ The Great Lakes Shipwreck File, David D. Swayze, October 3, 2008.
  21. ^ a b Thompson, Mark L. (2000). Graveyard of the Lakes. Detroit: Wayne State University Press. pp. 17–18. ISBN 0814332269. Retrieved April 16, 2009.
  22. ^ Wreck of the Carl D., Michael Schumacher, Bloomsbury, 2008, ISBN 978-1-59691-484-1.
  23. ^ Dredging on the Great Lakes, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, July 31, 2006.
  24. ^ "Shipwrecks of the Lakes", Dana T. Bowen, Freshwater Press, January 1, 1952, quoted in the U.S. Coast Guard's Board of Inquiry report on the foundering of the SS Carl D. Bradley, published 1958.
  25. ^ "Economy dampens plan for freighter's future". Green Bay Press-Gazette.[dead link]
  26. ^ U.S. Steel Works
  27. ^, McDougall-Duluth Company
  28. ^, City of Riverside
  29. ^ McDougall Duluth Shipbuilding Company 1919
  30. ^ "Explore an actual Great Lakes Freighter!". Sault Historic Sites. Retrieved September 2, 2020.
  31. ^ "Schoonmaker rechristened". Toledo Blade.
  32. ^ Dispatch, Steve Stephens. "On the waterfront: Relocated museum celebrates Great Lakes". The Columbus Dispatch.
  33. ^ "William Clay Ford Pilot House | Detroit Historical Society".
  34. ^ Slater, Brady (October 8, 2015). "One final sail set for J.B. Ford". Duluth News Tribune. Archived from the original on July 7, 2019. Retrieved July 7, 2019.

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