The ore carrier CYPRUS is remembered because of the shortness of its career. The newly launched steamer sank Oct. 11, 1907, on its second trip, when it was caught in a fierce autumn gale on Lake Superior. There was only one survivor of the boat's 23-member crew. He was C. J. Pitt of Manitowoc, the second mate who stumbled ashore near Deer Park, Mich., after clinging to an overturned life raft and riding it through deadly surf.
Pitt told of the terror of the unexpected sinking, and then a six-hour ordeal with three other crew members on the open raft in the gale out of the northeast blew them toward the Michigan shore.
After the raft had flipped several times in the surf, Pitt was the only one of the four sailors to make it to shore alive. The others, including Capt. F.B. Huyck of' Sheridan, N.Y., were drowned..
The CYPRUS had been launched on Aug. 17 that year at the American Shipbuilding Co. yard in Lorain, Ohio, and was making her second trip when swallowed by the big lake. The 440- fool-long boat was laden with ore and making its way from Superior, Wis., to the Lackawanna, N.Y., steel mills.
Pitt said the CYPRUS battled the gale and made no headway for two days. There was speculation that the storm blew off some of the boat's hatch covers. On the evening of Oct.11, Pitt said the cargo apparently shifted because the boat took on a serious list and water began pouring into the hatches.
Captain Huyck calmed the fears of' the crew and expressed confidence that the pumps would handle the incoming water and that the boat would make shelter behind Whitefish Point.
Pitt said the crew stayed with the boat. The engines and pumps were operating at full speed, and everybody was at their posts when, without warning, the CYPRUS rolled on its side. Pitt said he and three other crew members were close enough to the raft that they managed to cut it away and cast off moments before the boat sank.
Captain Harbottle, master of the nearby freighter GEORGE STEPHENSON, said the lights of the CYPRUS blinked out at about 7:45 p.m. and he believed the boat sank at that time, Harbottle said the CYPRUS passed his boat earlier in the day and he noted that some of the canvas hatch coverings were not in place. He said the boat's deck was constantly awash from the seas coming at its quarter. The steamer's pumps were operating and Harbottle said the water discharge was red, so he knew the water was entering the hold with the iron ore.
Pitt said the three men who shared the raft with him were probably the only ones who got off the boat before it sank. The others were trapped inside the ship when it went down.
Also on the raft were Captain Huyck, first mate J.N. Smith and watchman George Thorn, who all were in or near the wheelhouse at the bow of the boat.
He said everybody was alive when the raft came into the surf. "As we neared shore the raft turned over time after time. When within a few hundred feet of land the captain and the others were thrown off," Pitt said. (James Donahue's shipwreck column)
Port Huron Daily Tribune
March 31, 1997
Steam screw CYPRUS. U. S. No. 204527. Of 4,900 tons gross. Built 1907. On October 11, 1907 vessel foundered 18 miles north of Deer Park, Wis., with 23 persons on board; 22 lives lost.
Loss of American Vessels
Merchant Vessel List, U. S., 1908