Steam screw CHICAGO. U. S. No. 127590. Of 3,195 tons gross. Built 1901. On October 23, 1929, vessel stranded on Michipicoten Island, Lake Superior, with 31 persons on board. No lives were lost.
Loss Reported of American Vessels
Merchant Vessel List, U. S., 1930
Steam screw CHICAGO. U. S. No. 127590. Of 3,195 tons gross; 2,546 tons net. Built Buffalo, N.Y., 1901. Home port, Buffalo, N.Y. 324.2 x 44.0 x 14.0 Freight service. Crew of 31. Of 1,612 indicated horsepower. Owned by Great lakes Transit Corporation.
Merchant Vessel List, U. S., 1928
Fleeing the Gale - When the danger intensified, the 31 crew members on the grounded freight hauler CHICAGO decided they were better off standing against the blizzard sweeping Lake Superior's barren Michipicoten Island than staying aboard their sinking ship.
The CHICAGO, which was bound from Duluth to Houghton, slammed into the island about 1:30 a.m. on Oct. 23, 1929 after getting blown about 100 miles off its course.
"I was at the wheel when she struck. I am to blame for the wreck," said the CHICAGO's skipper, Captain C. Farrell.
Farrell said that by the time the ship reached Keweenaw Point, the gale, which packed 50-mile-per- hour winds, was so terrible he thought it was impossible to safety enter the ship canal. He turned the CHICAGO back out to sea, intending to fight the storm on the open water. Farrell never expected to get blown so far off course he would run into Michipicoten Island. He said he had no idea where he was until the steamer struck the north coast of the island.
The crash lifted the bow high on the rocks. Sailors asleep in the forecastle were jarred from their bunks. "I thought the whole bow had been torn off," said cook James McDonad. "I looked out of the port hole and nearly had my head torn off by the pitching steamer. It was dark and through the blizzard I could see very little. The sea broke over us and it was impossible to leave the boat so we spent the night on board, none of us sleeping."
The 345-foot-long ship was tilted with its bow raised high in the air and the stem partly submerged. The seas swept the decks unchecked. As the storm continued to hammer some ominous noises rumbled through the steel ship. The vessel was starting to slide off the rocks. The holds, filled with flour and other miscellaneous cargo, were flooding. By the following day, Farrell said the ship had taken on a severe list and was slowly sliding into deeper water.
The crew began moving on the island that afternoon. It was a perilous 300-yard trip through a still raging surf but the sailors succeeded in making several trips in the ship's life boat. The rocky island was so stark the men could not live on it without supplies from the wreck. They shuttled food. canvas and anything else they could think of.
The sailors remained on the island four days before the gale abated enough that the Coast Guard could land a cutter and take them off.
By then, food supplies were so low that a delegation of seven men was hiking to Quebec Harbor, a small settlement on the south side of the island, to get help.
There was an attempt to save the CHICAGO, but it failed. While salvagers were at work on Dec. 19, the wreck slid off into deep water and broke up. (James Donahue's shipwreck column)
Port Huron Daily Tribune
November 4, 1996
CHICAGO Built September 28, 1901 Package Freight Prop. -Steel
U. S. No. 127590 3195 gt -2546 nt 324.2' x 44' x 14'
Stranded October 23, 1929, on Michipicoten Island, Lake Superior. Slid off into deep water, December 19, 1929, and sank.
Buffalo, N.Y., Shipbuilding Master List
Institute for Great Lakes Research