The Lake Huron Shipwreck of the Iron Chief

The picture post on our sister site about the huge dock in Forrestville gives rise to the question. Why did they name the boathouse the Iron Chief? A little exploring showed that there indeed was a Lake Huron shipwreck with this unusual name but she was not made out of iron. Today, she lays in over a hundred feet of water off the shore of the Grindstone City in the Thumb Area Bottomland Preserve

The Iron Chief was launched at the Detroit Dry Dock Company, in Wyandotte in July 1881.

Detroit Dry Dock, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The Iron Chef was Big Back in the Day

This wooden schooner was 212 feet long with a beam of a hefty 35-foot-wide In 1882 the schooner was converted from sail to steam in Detroit. It was a single-stack vessel with fore and aft masts. A small forward pilothouse and aft cabins. This conversion design was common in the era.

Wreck Iron Chief
The Iron Chief with masts still on board. – Courtesy Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary

The Lake Huron Wreck of the Iron Chief

On October 3, 1904, the 212-foot Iron Chief towed a coal barge named Iron Cliff. While underway toward Ft. William. The ship suffered a broken steam pipe that somehow damaged the propeller shaft stuffing box, flooding the ship. The crew was rescued by the ship Andrew Carnegie who attempted to tow the crippled ship. However, the next day she soon foundered in stormy heavy weather six miles from Pointe aux Barques, Michigan. Wreck divers indicate that the ship lies broken in 129 feet of water. Whitefish are frequent visitors to this wreck, swimming around her large piles of coal.

The coal barge remained afloat and was said to have been taken into Alpena under sail.

Wreck Iron Chief - Lake Huron Shipwreck

The Lake Huron Shipwrecks map above shows only a few wrecks off the tip of Michigan’s Thumb in Huron County. You can see the Anchor of the Iron Chef anchor displayed next to the Grice House Museum in Harbor Beach.

LightShip Huron in the Snow

The Lightship Huron – Lightship Huron. Lightships are floating lighthouses that could be anchored on the lakes where it was too deep or impossible to build a lighthouse. Lightships displayed a light at the top of a mast and, and in foggy conditions, it sounded a signal. Locals called the Huron “Old B.O.” because of the pretty unique sound the fog horn made. The Lightship Huron is docked in a small park in Port Huron.

Bay City Tall Ships

Draken Harald Hårfagre – Bay City Michigan 2016 – The Draken Harald Hårfagre visited the Great Lakes in 2016. The Vikings have accomplished navigators, artisans, traders, and storytellers, but their greatest contribution was seafaring and the ships they built. The ship has a traditional dragon’s head and tail and is richly ornamented with patterns found in excavations. It’s the largest ocean-going Viking ship in modern times.

Sebwaings busy harbor

Sebewaing History – A Busy Harbor – The lumbering era in Michigan’s Upper Thumb from 1860-1880 resulted in booming towns all along the shoreline. Sebewaing was no exception. While it did not benefit from the proximity of being on Lake Huron like Sand Beach, (later named Harbor Beach), or having a deep river outflow like Caseville, it’s historical spot as a rich hunting area by native Americans and natural outflow to Saginaw Bay by the Sebewaing River predestined it as a natural gathering spot.

diving ship wreck

Michigan Shipwrecks – Find and Dive – Interactive Map – Michigan’s thirteen Underwater Preserves serve to protect the shipwrecks on its Great Lakes bottomlands to ensure that they remain for future generations to study and enjoy. A great resource to find Lake Huron shipwrecks.

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Malcom Mott

Malcom Mott is our junior editor and contibrutes outside publications to various sites at Thumbwind Publications. He is also editor at AITrueReview.

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