I'll bet many of you have heard Gordon Lightfoot's, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" about the shipwreck on Lake Superior in 1975. Although, loss of life is always tragic, as incidents on the Great Lakes go, it is small.
The Lady Elgin's sinking in Lake Michigan was, until 1915, the largest single loss of life on the Great Lakes, numbering over 400. On the evening of September 7/8, the Lady Elgin left port in Chicago, headed back to Milwaukee. Reports say there were 500-600 people on board, many of whom had been to a political rally that day and were still celebrating. The captain wasn't sure about leaving as he suspected that the weather was about to turn, but he was persuaded to go.
By 2:30 am, the weather had become gale force winds, but the ship was holding its own. Another ship on the lake, however, wasn't. The Augusta was a schooner headed for Chicago with a load of lumber. Despite the high winds, it was flying all of its sails and out of control. When it hit the Lady Elgin, it was nearly on its side and the crew was trying desperately to bring it under control.
When the Aurora plowed into the side of the Lady Elgin, the lights went out, causing mass confusion. The crew began jettisoning cargo and moving heavy items to the starboard side of the ship in an effort to keep the hole out of the water. Down below, attempts were being made to plug the hole, but to no avail. The Aurora, unaware of the damage they'd done, continued on to Chicago.
To make matters worse, as the ship sank, a thunderstorm rose, soaking the survivors floating in the water, with the accompanying lightning throwing light on the horrific scene.This Day in History: The Lady Elgin disaster occurred in what year?
Labels: Great Lakes shipwrecks, Lady Elgin