The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Osceola (Propeller), aground, 21 Nov 1898

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The Ward Line steamer OSCEOLA was battling a severe winter storm on Lake Superior on the night of Nov. 21, 1898. The ship, laden with salt, was bound from Sault Ste. Marie to Duluth when the gale struck from the northwest. Capt. J.C. McLeod turned the steamer into the teeth of the fury instead of taking a direct westerly track across the big lake.
McLeod kept the ship on that course throughout the night, not realizing how much headway the OSCEOLA was making against the storm. At 5:30 a.m. the steamer crunched to a sudden stop. She was aground on the south side of Mott Island. An inspection revealed no apparent structural damage. With the wind now howling directly out of the north, the captain reasoned that it might be possible to lighten the boat enough to work it back out into deep water.
The 16 members of the crew worked for hours, hoisting hundreds of barrels of salt from the hold and jettisoning them overboard. Before they had the job finished, the wind shifted and the seas began hammering the ship from starboard. McLeod decided it was too dangerous to stay aboard the stranded vessel.
The rocky island was only a few hundred feet away, but to the crew of the OSCEOLA it seemed like a hundred miles. The seas were so violent that every man felt in great danger as they struggled to reach the shore on a single lifeboat. A rope line was fastened to the little boat, with the other end tied to the side of' the steamer. When the first boat load of sailors reached shore. another rope was attached to something on the island.
The men then used the ropes to pull the life boat back and forth between the ship and shore until everybody was ashore. Their feet were on solid rock, but there was little comfort on the barren and uninhabited island. The sailors found the best shelter they could, gathered firewood and miraculously got a fire started.
Two days later the storm was over and the OSCEOLA was still in one piece. The crew returned to the ship and finished the job of throwing the cargo overboard. On the night of Nov. 23, after about 2000 barrels of salt were jettisoned. the ship floated free. (Author James Donahue shipwreck articles ran once a week in paper.)
      Port Huron Daily Tribune

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Item Type:
Reason: aground
Lives: nil
Freight: salt
Remarks: Got off
Date of Original:
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Geographic Coverage:
  • Michigan, United States
    Latitude: 48.11099 Longitude: -88.53563
William R. McNeil
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Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Osceola (Propeller), aground, 21 Nov 1898