Shipwreck hunters stunned by discovery at bottom of world’s largest freshwater lake

It is one of Lake Superior’s many mysteries

Via AP news wire
Saturday 17 February 2024 23:16 GMT
Related video: new images of three iconic shipwrecks

Shipwreck hunters were stunned to find a ship that sank in Lake Superior, the world’s largest freshwater lake, that dated back to 1940.

The Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society and shipwreck researcher Dan Fountain announced on Monday the discovery of the 244ft (74-metre) bulk carrier Arlington in about 650ft (200 metres) of water some 35 miles north of Michigan’s Keweenaw peninsula.

The Arlington left Port Arthur, Ontario, on 30 April 1940, fully loaded with wheat and headed to Owen Sound, Ontario, under the command of Captain Frederick “Tatey Bug” Burke, a veteran of the Great Lakes.

The shipwreck society said that ‘no one will ever know the answer’ as to why the captain acted as he did before his ship was lost (Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society)

But as the Arlington and a larger freighter, the Collingwood, made their way across Lake Superior, they encountered dense fog and then a storm after nightfall that battered both ships. The Arlington began to take on water.

The ship’s first mate ordered the Arlington onto a course to hug the Canadian north shore, which would have provided some cover from wind and waves, but Burke countermanded and ordered his ship back onto a course across the open lake, the discoverers said.

An image from inside the wreck of the bulk carrier ‘Arlington’ (Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society)

Early on 1 May 1940, the Arlington began to sink and the ship's chief engineer sounded the alarm. The crew, “out of fear for their lives, and without orders from Captain Burke”, began to abandon ship, the society said in a statement.

All crew made it safely onto the Collingwood except for Burke, who went down with the Arlington. Reports indicate he was last seen near its pilothouse, waving at the Collingwood, minutes before his ship vanished into the lake.

The shipwreck society said in the statement that “no one will ever know the answer” as to why Burke acted as he did before his ship was lost.

“It’s exciting to solve just one more of Lake Superior’s many mysteries, finding Arlington so far out in the lake,” Mr Fountain said in a statement. “I hope this final chapter in her story can provide some measure of closure to the family of Captain Burke.”

‘It’s exciting to solve just one more of Lake Superior’s many mysteries’ says researcher Dan Fountain (Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society)

The Arlington was discovered thanks to Mr Fountain, a resident of Negaunee, Michigan, who has been conducting remote sensing in Lake Superior in search of shipwrecks for about a decade, said Bruce Lynn, executive director of the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society.

Mr Fountain approached the group with “a potential target” near the northern tip of the Keweenaw peninsula, and the Arlington was discovered last year, Mr Lynn said.

“These targets don’t always amount to anything ... but this time it absolutely was a shipwreck. A wreck with an interesting, and perhaps mysterious story,” he said in the statement. “Had Dan not reached out to us, we might never have located the Arlington.”

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