Fairport Harbor

Ship swallowed by Lake Erie, then by lake bottom

Lake Erie
Photo Scripps Media


By Erica Blake - News Net5

 

Twice during its 122-year history, the C.B. Lockwood has been swallowed up by Lake Erie.

On course from Duluth, Minn., to Buffalo and battling the fury of an October storm, the 285-foot wooden steamer first sank in 1902, crashing more than 70 feet below the waves just east of Cleveland.

The location of the Lockwood was not a mystery. With one look at historical data, its exact location -- 13 1/2 miles north by northwest off Fairport Harbor -- easily can be found.

But despite being armed with a figurative "X marks the spot," shipwreck hunters have for decades been stumped by the empty expanse of Lake Erie muck where the Lockwood should be. Until now.

More than a century after its sinking and with the use of sophisticated equipment, researchers recently determined that the Lockwood never moved, it simply sank again.

"It sank twice, once to the bottom and once below the bottom," said shipwreck hunter David VanZandt, the director and chief archaeologist for the Cleveland Underwater Explorers, or CLUE, who discovered the twice-sunken ship.

"The entire ship was under the lake bottom," he said. "The lake swallowed up a 300-foot wreck." But how ?

What is known about the Lockwood has been learned through newspaper articles and maritime records. Launched from Cleveland on June 25, 1890, the Lockwood was at the time the largest wooden steamer on the lakes and the first lake propeller ship to measure 45 feet in width.

According to records provided by CLUE, the Lockwood broke a Sault Ste. Marie-to-Duluth speed record one year after its launch. But it sailed for only a dozen years when it came across bad weather while hauling a cargo of flaxseed.

The ship sank on Oct. 13, 1902, forcing its crew into two lifeboats. One boat made it to shore, the other did not. Ten crew members died.

Within days of its sinking, the Lockwood was found and charted. Within weeks, the wreck was marked with buoys. But yet, decades later, scuba divers can find only a few empty lifeboat cranes and some strange markings in the muck when they go to the site.

"The difficulty about it (is) we had excellent location information," said CLUE chief researcher Jim Paskert, who began looking for the Lockwood in the mid-80s.

"We redid the map and checked all the information, and `Boy, this is where it should be, and we're here, and there's nothing here.'?"