Get to know Grand Rapids (and the world)

Shipwrecks Lecture

As I continue my life after graduation, I’m continuing my ventures of cultured life and events in Grand Rapids.

Saturday was a lecture on shipwrecks in the Great Lakes. Quite amazing, when you think about the number of wrecks in the five lakes.

The lecturer, Bill Helmholdt, said there are between 5-10,000 wrecks in the lakes.

And he began with the first wreck, the Griffon, which sank in 1679 on a return trip from Green Bay, Wisconsin. It was the first ship to explore the lakes besides canoes. The ship was carrying more than 10,000 pounds of fur and sank between Grand Haven and St. Ignace. For some odd reason, France still lays claim to the ship, so when it’s discovered, which an exploration team believes it has, perhaps they can receive the 10,000 pounds of soggy fur.

The biggest loss of life was the Eastland, which simply was too top heavy and rolled over in 1915. More than 850 people drowned in the ship, which was in perfect shape, salvaged and sold to the United States Navy.

Then there were the unlucky. The Milwaukee had a captain, who had a captain with a nasty reputation. This captain would sail in any weather, and set out from Grand Haven in a bad storm. The ship was lost, and later found — 10 miles outside of its destination, Milwaukee.

In 1780, a British warship, the HMS Ontario, was sailing with nearly 50 American prisoners of war. It hit a gail and sank. When it was found, it was in near perfect condition on the lake bottom, but covered with Zebra Muscles.

There were several other that Helmboldt discussed, including the Edmund Fitzgerald, but the most interesting was the Argo.

The Argo ended up stuck on a sand bar with a variety of crew and people on board that had to be helped to shore by a life saving crew. Last but not lease was a horse. The horse was ordered by the Grand Rapids Fire Department to pull a fire cart. The horse was saved, and ended up serving in Grand Rapids. And as far as I’m concerned, it served in the firehouse I now bartend at.

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