The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Watertown Times (Watertown, NY), Tuesday Nov. 17,1885

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The Wreck of the Algoma

A survivor of the steamship Algoma, wrecked with such terrible loss of life on Lake Superior, says that when the shock was felt he ran down to the purser's room. He then pushed forward amid the stifling steam and aroused the steward and other employees, as well as the steerage passengers. Finding the escaping steam almost suffocating, he again rushed up to the cabin, aroused all the passengers whom he had not awakened on his way down, and conducted them to the forward end. A lady passenger and her daughter were wildly crying in the saloon, clothed in only a thin night dress. The mate urged upon all the great necessity of keeping quiet and obeying orders. While he was advancing forward with one of the lady's hand in his own and holding the little girl with his other hand, a great wave dashed through the cabin, caught the woman and child and swept them out into the lake. Some of the men lost their reason completely and rushed into the stormy depths. About seventeen persons followed the mate and climbed into the rigging. A terrible sea swept over the boat, and masts were washed clean under the waves. Every time they came up there were two or three forms missing. Once the mast made a dip with ten men, and when it came up right again only two persons were seen on it. The next sea swept all the brave strugglers away. One man fought nobly for his life. He was washed off the boat and clung to some ropes. Slowly, inch by inch he struggled along the ropes, hand over hand, back to the vessel. Every few seconds, a wave would hurl him around like a feather, dash hum up and then bury him in a mountain of ice-cold water, but he struggled on until just a few feet from the boat, when his strength gave out, and he passed away with a wild, wailing appeal for aid. Many of the passengers could be seen on their knees loudly calling for mercy and succor. The waves spared none. They dashed in and around each shrieking form and bore away as their prey with each returning visit dozens of human beings.

John McLean was one of the two waiters saved. He felt the shock when the boat struck and jumped out of bed. He saw the engine had stopped and the electric light were out, while the boat was full of steam. He ran up the hurricane deck and saw the captain blowing off steam, which he continued until all was exhausted. "The captain told us there was no great danger and the safest place was down on the lower decks, We stared to run there when the waves carried away the hurricane deck and we grasped the rigging. The captain passed a life-line along and we hung on to it for eight hours, believing that every minute would be our last. It was dark and freezing cold, with a terrible sea. There were two ladies and three little girls that I noticed. They were swept away with the cabins. We could hear the ladies and girls calling piteously, but no one could help them. After a while their voices ceased, and we all knew they were out in the lake. The cabin went to pieces in ten minutes after the boat struck and only the stern part of the boat was left when we came away. All our clothing was lost. We all owe our lives to the exertion made by the captain. If it had not been for his coolness and prompt action we could not have gone through the first night. I have been on the lake for five rough seasons, but this it the roughest I ever saw."

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Tuesday Nov. 17,1885
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Richard Palmer
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Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Watertown Times (Watertown, NY), Tuesday Nov. 17,1885