The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Specular (Propeller), U115876, sunk by collision, 22 Aug 1900

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Detroit, Aug. 22. - The steamer SPECULAR, bound from Marquette for Cleveland with iron ore, sank at 3 o'clock this morning off Point Pelee, Lake Erie, the result of colliding with an unknown vessel described as a large black freighter. The latter passed on up in the darkness after the collision. Thirteen men of the SPECULAR's crew escaped in their small boats. The other five perched in the topmast rigging, which protruded above water. Later they were picked up by the steamer MARITANA and brought to Detroit.
      Detroit, Aug. 22. - It has been ascertained that the steamer which collided with the SPECULAR and sank her is the DENVER, owned by W.E. Fitzgerald, of Milwaukee. The identity of the steamer was not established until late this afternoon, when the DENVER arrived at Port Huron with her bows stove in. Captain P. Christenson, who commands the DENVER, admitted that his vessel had struck a steamer coming across Lake Erie, but said he had not thought the other boat was damaged to such an extent that there was any possibility of her sinking.
      Saginaw Courier-Herald
      August 23, 1900

      . . . . .

The steamer SPECULAR which was proceeding to Cleveland through the Point Peler channel with a cargo of 2,300 tons of coal, was run into and sank by the steamer DENVER shortly after 2 o'clock Wednesday morning. Within 6 minutes after the collision the SPECULAR had filled and gone down. Her crew of 17 men all escaped, some of them by getting into the yawl and others by climbing to the rigging. Four hours later they were picked up by the steamer MARITANA and brought to Detroit. The SPECULAR was 1741 gross tons; 264 x 35 x 20, built in 1882 at Cleveland and owned by the Republic Iron Co.
      Port Huron Daily Times
      Thursday, August 23, 1900

      Quickly Steamed Away Without Offering The Slightest Aid.
      The steamer DENVER smashed in the side of the wooden steamer SPECULAR while over the middle ground, Point au Pelee, lake Erie, at 2 o'clock yesterday morning, and the latter quickly sank in thirty feet of water. The offending vessel backed out of the hole she had made, put on all speed and steamed away for her destination without offering the slightest aid in rescuing aboard the sinking vessel.
Capt. Ed. Mooney, of the SPECULAR, and eighteen of his crew put up at the New Cass Hotel, near the Michigan Central depot, yesterday noon, having been picked up and brought here by the Minnesota liner MARITANA. Those of the crew on watch at the time say that though the night was dark there was no excuse for the collision; that they could see the lights of the other craft a long distance off and thought they had plenty of room to clear each other, but that as they neared each other, instead of keeping off in answer to the SPECULAR's signals, she closed in on her and struck her on the port side a little abaft the fore-rigging. The DENVER did not sheer - of that they are sure - and they are equally sure their own craft is in no way to blame.
      The hole is a big one, for the water poured in with great volume, and she went to the bottom so rapidly that they had barely time to seek safety, and saved nothing. Thirteen - unlucky number - got into the yawl, and pulled out of danger just as the steamer sank, while the other five climbed into the rigging, the topmasts being out of the water.
      One of the crew lives at 449 Franklin street, this city. He was a watchman, his name is John Johnson, and he tells this story: "I was sleeping soundly when the mate rushed into my room and roughly shook me, crying out that the boat was sinking. Hardly knowing what it was all about I hurried on deck. Some of the men were getting down the lifeboat, but there was no time to get out the other boat, and I, with some of the men who had been asleep, took to the rigging. There was about thirty feet of water where we went down, and all of the steamer is covered except her pilot house forward and portions of her deck house and stack aft. Some of the upper works were carried away, and had we been left to sleep a minute more, we would have drowned.
Mate Smith, who was in charge at the time, sys he saw a big steamer coming up and gave him the whistle to pass to port, but got no answer. he waited, expecting to get one, but the vessel came straight for him and struck the SPECULAR just aft of the fore-rigging, knocking a big hole in the hull. The big steamer then backed off and went on her course. The SPECULAR sank in six minutes.
      The SPECULAR had 2,300 tons of ore from Marquette to Cleveland and was towing the big wooden schooner MAGNETIC with 3,000 tons aboard for Toledo. They passed this port at 6:30 o'clock p. m. Tuesday, the schooner taking a tug at the mouth of the river for Toledo. Though the Southeast Shoal gas buoy is not burning at this time, that fact could have nothing to do with the disaster, though it happened just abreast of the point.
      The sunken steamer, which is owned and operated by the Republic Iron Co., of Cleveland, is a wooden propeller eighteen years old, 264 feet overall, 35 feet beam and 20 feet deep, and registers 1,741 gross tons, and carry close to 3,000 tons on 18 feet draft. She rates A 1 1/2 and is valued at $60,000, insured: Her cargo is also well covered , and it is probable that little time will be lost in beginning wrecking operations. The task of raising the big craft will not be difficult, owing to the shallowness of the water, though the swells of passing steamers may bother the wreckers, the boat lying in the channel.
      The names of the rescued crew are; John Smith, first mate, Cleveland; William Mooney, second mate, son of the captain, Rockwood; John Smith, chief engineer, Cleveland; L. D. Furman, second engineer, Cleveland; G. C. Handy, sailor, Cleveland; Valentine Killean, sailor, Perrysburg, O. ; H. M. Clayton, sailor, Cleveland; Charles Smith, sailor, Cleveland; C. W. Jackson, Toledo; Fred Galetsky, Rockwood; G. Peterson, Cleveland; Joseph Sullivan, Kingston, Ont.; Daniel Puck, Cleveland; John Johnson, Detroit and Charles Millen, Detroit.
      The DENVER passed this port at 3 o'clock yesterday morning, but gave no sign of the important mishap that had befallen her. The mystery surrounding the unknown craft which hit SPECULAR was thus increased. All day long inquiries flew over the wires as to the identity of the offending craft, but to no purpose. In some way the rumor got abroad late in the afternoon that it was the DENVER, but people only whispered the name, because they could not prove it. At about 5 o'clock the DENVER neared Port Huron, and when her master Capt. Peter Christenson, was asked if he knew who sank the SPECULAR, is reported to have said; "We hit something near Pelee Point early this morning, but I don't know whether she sank or not." That settled it. The DENVER must have struck stem-on, for she is but slightly injured, and does not leak.
      The DENVER is one of the fleet owned and operated by W. E. Fitzgerald of Milwaukee, registers 1,295 gross tons, rates A 1 star, is ten years old, and is valued at about $70,000, insured. A singular fact about the collision is that the chief engineer of each craft bears the familiar name of John Smith.
      Detroit Free Press
      August 23, 1900
      . . . . .
      No accident of the present season on the great lakes has caused so much discussion among vessel men as the sinking of the wooden steamer SPECULAR. in Pelee passage, Lake Erie, following collision with the steamer DENVER. The men saved from the wreck of the SPECULAR. were unable to tell when they reached shore what vessel had struck them. It was expected, of course, that the name of the vessel would soon be known, as such a secret could not be kept by an entire crew. When it was found that the colliding vessel was the steamer DENVER, and that no report was made until after she had passed Port Huron, there was some criticism of the action of Capt. Christenson of that ship, especially for not standing by after collision, but in his explanation he claimed that he had not thought of the accident amounting to more than a glancing blow, especially as the injured vessel had immediately pushed on some distance from the scene of the accident. It is true that the SPECULAR. was forged ahead at full speed but this was for the purpose of trying to reach shallow water in the few mines that intervened between the collision and the sinking of the injured craft. No statement regarding the accident has been made on behalf of the SPECULAR, but the particulars will come out in an inquiry to be made by the government steamboat inspectors. From such information as can be had from the standpoint of the sunken boat, it appears that the night was quite clear and that the DENVER could be seen for a considerable distance, that the mate of the SPECULAR, who was in charge, had blown a porting signal but got no answer, that the signal was twice repeated after Capt. Mooney of the SPECULAR hurried on deck, but without response of any kind from the DENVER. Then came the crash and there was just sufficient time to head for shallow water, to rouse the sleepers, to launch one of the yawls, to fill it with a part of the crew and to have the rest take to the rigging. The conduct of Capt Mooney of the SPECULAR seems to have been most exemplary. He reckoned that the water was not over 30 ft. deep at the point and that therefore a part of his crew could save themselves by climbing into the rigging. To show his faith in his judgment he climbed up after them. The water was about 30 ft. deep. Had it been any deeper a part of the crew would have been drowned. The wreck report of Capt. Christenson, to government officials, made from Milwaukee and evidently under legal advice, is as follows:
      "At midnight of Aug. 21 I gave charge of the steamer to the mate, and shortly after 2 o'clock in the morning I heard our steamer exchange passing signals of one blast with some steamer and heard the order Harda-port.' I went on deck and saw a vessel crossing ahead of us; our vessel swung under her port wheel, but struck a glancing blow with her port bow on the port side of the other vessel, and glancing off the two vessels passed port to port. I at once stopped our engine to stay by the other vessel, which I took to be a large steel barge. I also looked to see if we were leaking, but found our damage evidently slight. The vessel we had struck gave no signal by either engine or large whistle that we could hear and appeared to continue on at full speed, as I could see her rear mast head light. Soon after the collision other vessels passed close to us. and in the direction of this colliding vessel, which I could only conclude was practically uninjured and had gone on instead of standing by us. After waiting a considerable time we started ahead and I reported the collision to my owners by letter mailed at Detroit, but did not have any idea that the other vessel was much if at all injured until when passing Port Huron we were informed that the SPECULAR had been sunk, and then I concluded that it was probably she that had been in collision with us. Our damages will amount to but little and I think will be found to be confined to the upper works at the bluff of our port bow. I do not know about the damages to the other vessel, as she passed on so fast, but I presume it must have been the SPECULAR we struck."
The wreck of the SPECULAR will very probably be raised, although the job may prove a difficult one on account of the approaching season of bad weather. General Manager Collier and Wrecking Master Johnson of the Great Lakes Towing Co., as well as the representatives of the Swain Wrecking Co. of Chicago, have examined the sunken vessel with a view to bidding on the work of raising her.
      Marine Review
      August 30, 1900

      Though the wreck of the SPECULAR, sunk at one side of the Pelee passage, is a menace and obstruction to all craft carried a little out of their way in heavy fog, yet the Canadian department of marine & fisheries calmly announces that it "has so located the wreck that there will be no difficulty in finding it next spring, when it will probably be blown up." Nobody expects the people to dynamite the wreck this fall, owing to the prevalence of fresh to high winds every day, which would prevent the work of divers, but they might at least locate a lightship, with fog-whistles or bell aboard, to warn imperiled vessels away from the spot. The SPECULAR was a big boat, with 2,400 tons of iron ore aboard, and anything that hits the wreck is bound to go to the bottom. It would be a lesson to the people across the way if a Canadian bottom found the wreck first.
      Detroit Free Press
      November 1, 1900

Steam screw SPECULAR. U. S. No. 115876. Of 1,741 gross tons; 1,439 tons net. Built Cleveland, Ohio, 1882. Home port, Marquette, Mich. 263.7 x 34.8 x 20.1
      Merchant Vessel List, U. S., 1900

Media Type:
Item Type:
Reason: sunk by collision
Lives: nil
Freight: iron ore
Remarks: Total loss
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Geographic Coverage:
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 41.908055 Longitude: -82.508888
William R. McNeil
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Specular (Propeller), U115876, sunk by collision, 22 Aug 1900