Reflections and diversions: November a perfect time to hunt for shipwrecks

By Jon Gast - Green Bay Press Gazette


"Anyone living in the Great Lakes Region for an extended period of time can become all too familiar with the incredible storms ... that can settle over the Great Lakes Region in the fall. November, being the prime month for such monsters to start materializing, has had more than its share of super storms."

So wrote weather historian William Deedler in his essay, "Hell Hath No Fury Like a Great Lakes Fall Storm."

For those of us living in a maritime community, it's easy for our thoughts to gravitate toward Lake Michigan and the Great Lakes when we have a windstorm like the one we experienced last week.

I almost immediately conjured up visions of the Great Lakes Storm of 1913 — "Freshwater Fury," as it was nicknamed and called in the Door County Maritime Museum exhibit that closed earlier this year.

Part of that exhibit was a modern-day weather report compiled by WLUK-TV Channel 11 meteorologists explaining what took place 97 years ago this week.

I have to tell you, last week's storm had a very similar look to it. It was reported that winds topped 90 mph and waves reached 35 feet in that 1913 storm. Last week, wave sensors in Lake Michigan, normally a bit calmer than Lake Superior, nearly reached 25 feet and winds on the open lake had to be higher than the 75 mph registered at some ports.

There was a major difference — loss of life and damage to ships was considerably different. While the 1913 storm claimed over 200 lives and millions of dollars in vessel loss, such devastation was practically nonexistent last week, as better forecasting and communication provided ships with adequate warning.

Certainly, life on the lake still involves a dose of risk. It was just 35 years ago next Wednesday that the Edmund Fitzgerald went down in a November gale on Lake Superior. Maybe it's that seeming disappearance of modern-day shipwrecks that make the Fitzgerald and the shear multitude of wrecks a century or more ago so captivating.



Great Lakes Region William Deedler Door County Maritime Museum Lake Michigan