Shipwreck hunter finds ghost from Great Storm of 1913

This historical photo of the Hydrus freighter shows it at an unnamed port being loaded with iron ore. The photo is provided by diver and Hydrus enthusiast Jared Danie

By Jim Schaefer - Detroit Free Press

The diver descended, slowly, the sun’s rays refracting as he dropped toward the floor of Lake Huron. The shimmering green-blue water turned navy as he swam down 50 feet, then 100. And finally, near 150, the diver saw a dark mass materializing in the murk.

A broad, flat expanse with two big black rectangles on it came into focus. He knew that expanse was a ship’s deck.

That those rectangles were cargo hatches. This was exactly what he had come to find, and there he was, swimming right down to it, the first person to see it, 102 years after it vanished. The Hydrus.

Since the Great Storm of 1913, the 436-foot steamship Hydrus had been lost. It sank, most likely on Nov. 9 of that year, during a storm so ferocious it has been called the “White Hurricane.”

The sky unleashed a blizzard over the Great Lakes, hitting Lake Huron hardest with wind gusts up to 90 m.p.h. and waves to 35 feet. The Great Storm, even today, is the worst recorded on the lakes. Not even the weather that sank the Edmund Fitzgerald, 40 years ago this week compares to the 1913 disaster.

There were a dozen major shipwrecks from Nov. 7 through 10, and eight of them were on Lake Huron. More than 250 people perished.

The Hydrus had been headed south toward the St. Clair River, iron ore in its belly. The ship lost everyone on board, a crew of 22, including five found frozen to death in a lifeboat that washed up in Canada.

Since that time, every ship believed to have gone down in U.S. waters in Lake Huron was discovered except the Hydrus.

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