Friday, September 19, 2014


In September, the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society (GLSHS) found the wreck of the Nelson, a large three-masted schooner built in 1866, in Lake Superior. The GLSHS found the 199’-long schooner in over 200’ of water. Society members were out in the organisation’s 50’ research vessel, the David Boyd, when they came across something on the sonar that appeared to be a shipwreck. Side-scan sonar is employed to analyze the lake bottom and identify submerged wrecks. They ultimately sent a diver down to take pictures and try to identify the wreck. Eric Foreman was the diver in question and he was the first person to see the ship in more than 100 years. It is said to be amazingly intact despite laying on the bottom of Lake Superior for 115 years. The vessel sank near Grand Marais, Michigan, in May 1899 after foundering in the midst of a spring gale, claiming the lives of all but one of the 10 on board. Only the captain survived. The Nelson, along with another schooner named the Mary Mitchell, was being towed towards Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula by the steamer A.Folsum on May 13, 1899 when the three vessels encountered rough waters caused by a spring gale. Captain AE White of the A.Folsum made the decision to turn the boats back to port when he noticed that the Nelson was lulling. The tow line snapped and the Nelson began to make a quick descent under water. Captain Hagginey/Haganey, the captain of the Nelson, quickly put his wife, infant child and the rest of the crew into a lifeboat before jumping from the sinking boat. By the time that he resurfaced, the ship was almost completely submerged and the lifeboat had been pulled under with it. The Captain's family and the rest of the crew all perished. The crew included the ship’s cook and a Richard Francis Cottrell. According to , “Captain Haganey of the Nelson remained aboard his sinking ship to lower the life-boat, which contained the crew, his wife and infant child. Once lowered, Captain Haganey jumped overboard to gain the lifeboat himself. He landed in the water, and upon surfacing witnessed the stern of his vessel rise up as the ship dove for the bottom. The line was still attached to the lifeboat, which took his crew and family along with the sinking ship.” Haganey himself survived after grabbing onto a piece of debris and eventually finding his way to shore at the Deer Park Life-Saving Station, where he was nursed back to health. The wreck-site is now being documented by the GLSHS for the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum. The Museum is located at Whitefish Point, Michigan. It is open to the public seasonally from May 1 to October 31. The GLSHS is said to be a leader in the field of underwater exploration and shipwreck documentation on the Upper Great Lakes. The Society was founded in 1978 by a group of divers, teachers, and educators to commence exploration of historic shipwrecks in eastern Lake Superior, near Whitefish Point in Michigan’s scenic Upper Peninsula. It operates the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum and the U.S. Weather Bureau Building, SooLocksPark, Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan. The Weather Bureau is open year-round. Visit for more details.