History’s Gem of the Month: Shipwrecks at Agate Beach

 July 2010

Shipwrecks at Agate Beach

In the museum’s archive I found the photo included below. It shows ships that went aground between Agate Beach and the breakwater that protects Grand Marais Bay.

On the back of the photograph, the following description was written:

On October 20, 1905 at nightfall the second mate of the Turret Crown steamer warned the captain that the storm was increasing in fury. All the day before leaving Sault Saint Marie, the Captain had been drinking. When in front of the Grand Marais, Michigan lighthouse the Captain asked the first mate what lighthouse it was. The captain turned to enter the harbor of refuge but entered on the port side of the pier. The second mate was right in mentioning that the ship would go aground. The captain’s excuse was that he believed the harbor to be Grand Marais, Minnesota. Later a wrecking tug assisted the Turret Crown to deeper water, after which she continued on to Duluth.

The Galatea, a lumber barge, also ran aground during the same storm just west of Grand Marais’ pier. The vessel was a wooden 3-masted schooner built by the F. Wheeler Company in Bay City, MI in 1882. She was 180 feet long, 33 feet wide and 12 feet high. She was driven so far ashore by the waves that the crew could step off onto solid ground by clambering over her stern. Even though salvagers dug a 900 foot channel to her, she was unsalvageable and broke up the following winter. Her sister ship, the, the Nirvana, was being towed by the propeller ship LL Barth. The Nirvana smashed into the pier and was sunk ¼ mile off shore. The crew was saved but the heavy seas pounded the Nirvana to bits. She later washed up east of the piers on the beach.

Research on the internet regarding the Turret Crown shows that the steamer was built in 1895 by the William Doxford and Sons Company in Sunderland, England. She was 258 feet long, 44 feet wide, and carried a gross tonnage of 1,827 pounds. She was used to carry goods by the Canadian Lake and Ocean Navigation Company. Apparently the problem in Grand Marais was not the only incident. On July 22, 1903 the Turret Crown collided with the wooden freighter Waverly near Harbor Beach, MI causing the freighter to sink. She also collided with the William C Mack on May 4, 1913 causing damage to both vessels. During World War I the Turret Crown was used in the Atlantic to transfer goods. After World Work I she was used along the Pacific coast. Below is a photo taken of the Turret Crown at a dock in Seward, Alaska.

The steamer returned to Great Lakes service in 1922. On October 7th of that year she ran aground again off Cove Island in Lake Huron. She was again salvaged and continued service. Her luck ran out on November 2, 1924 when she ran aground and was stranded at Meldrum Point on Manitoulin Island. The metal from her hull was later salvaged and used during World War II.

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