The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
The Perils of the Great Lakes
New York Sun, 9 Jan 1880

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The Perils of the Great Lakes.

To The Editor of The Sun. - Sir: As an old lake sailor I can endorse your recent article upon "Disasters on the Great Lakes:" but the assertion that waves do not "strike ship or shore with the tremendous force of the ocean," while perhaps, correct in certain situations, does not make allowance for the fact that fresh water, with its lighter specific gravity, is more quickly agitated, and is sooner raised into a wicked, chopping, combing sea than salt water.

Moreover, the comparative shallowness of the lakes causes the waves to run more swiftly - like a heavy ground swell on the Atlantic coast. For these reasons the same gale on ocean and lake will exert about an equally destructive influence on the latter as the former.

The lake schooners are good rollers, and owing to their centre boards, can beat steadily to windward in all but the worst gales. Their skippers are well posted as to the lay of the land, lights, and so on; but not keeping a dead reckoning even, and running frequently all night long in thick weather, before they are aware of it they sometimes run their vessels ashore.

The general shallowness of harbors of refuge also prevents deeply-laden craft from making them, and, as heaving to and weathering out a gale can rarely be attempted, vessels often have to run from 200 to 300 miles, exposed to the fury of a freezing winter's gale. No wonder fatalities occur.

Fresh-Water Sailor

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Date of Publication:
9 Jan 1880
Richard Palmer
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Geographic Coverage:
  • New York, United States
    Latitude: 40.71427 Longitude: -74.00597
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Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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The Perils of the Great Lakes