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Graveyard of the Lakes

Mark L. Thompson

Publication Year: 2000

For the first time, a historian and seasoned mariner looks beyond the specific circumstances of individual shipwrecks in an effort to reach a clearer understanding of the economic, political, and psychological factors that have influenced the 25,000 wrecks on the Great Lakes over the past 300 years. Looking at the entire tragic history of shipwrecks on North America's expansive inland seas, from the 1679 loss of the Griffon to the mysterious sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald in 1975, Mark L. Thompson concludes that a wreck is not an isolated event. In Graveyard of the Lakes, Thompson suggests that most of the accidents and deaths on the lakes have been the result of human error, ranging from simple mistakes to gross incompetence. In addition to his compelling analysis of the causes of shipwrecks, Thompson includes factual accounts of more than one hundred wrecks. Graveyard of the Lakes will forever change the reader's perspective on shipwrecks.

Published by: Wayne State University Press

Series: Great Lakes Books Series


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pp. 9-12

...existed in the recent literature about the industry. Steamboats and Sailorsof the Great Lakes (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1991) traced the historical development of the industry and provided an overview of contemporary shipping activity and the changes that have taken place since the shipping recession of the 1980s. Queen of the Lakes (Detroit:...

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Introduction: A River of Tears

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pp. 13-38

ON THE MORNING OF NOVEMBER 11, 1975, PASTOR Richard W. Ingalls of Mariners' Church in Detroit slowly tolled his church's "brotherhood bell"twenty-nine times. He did so in memory of the twenty-nine crewmen on the freighter Edmund Fitzgerald who had been lost the previous evening when their ship sank in a fierce storm on Lake Superior. Tolling the bell once for each mariner lost on the Great Lakes was a tradition Pastor...

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1. Beached Whales: Groundings

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pp. 39-92

FROM THE MID-1800S UNTIL THE 1950s, ISLE ROYALE was populated from April until November each year by scores of commercial fishermen and their families.Most were of Scandinavian descent, with names like Anderson, Bjorlin,Gilbertson, Johnson, Olson, Rasmussen, and Sivertson. For three or four generations, those families fished the clear, cold waters around Lake Superior s largest island, providing a supply of fresh fish for the ever-...

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2. The Cauldrons of Hades: Fires and Boiler Explosions

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pp. 93-140

...bolstered by the steadily increasing flood of immigrants who had been arriving from Europe almost daily since the end of the War of 1812. Many of the new immigrants were bound for the expansive frontiers opening up west of the Appalachians, especially the territories around the Great Lakes. Buffalo, Cleveland, Toledo, Detroit, Chicago, and...

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3. Fatal Encounters: Collisions

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pp. 141-206

...were combination passenger and freight carriers, but they were primarily designed for the highly lucrative passenger trade between Buffalo and the rapidly growing urban centers rising up around the lakes at places like Following the War of 1812, a combination of cheap land and plentiful jobs attracted a flood of immigrants to the Great Lakes region. Most...

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4. The Curse of the Eleventh Month: Founderings

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pp. 207-316

for Thanksgiving or deer-hunting season—they just don't want to be out on the lakes in November. They don't want to risk getting caught in a bad storm. More specifically, they don't want to risk being on a ship that sinks in a storm! The most serious threat to ships and sailors on the inland seas of North America has always been from "heavy weather"—the incessant procession of gales and...

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5. A Commonsense Postmortem: The Sinking of the Fitzgerald

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pp. 317-330

Bernie Cooper, captain of' the Anderson, refused to believe his eyes. The heavy snowfall that had been limiting visibility on the east end of Lake Superior let up a little at 7:20, and Cooper asked Morgan Clark, his first mate, to look for the Fitzgerald's silhouette on the horizon, thinking that the freighter might have had a power failure. Clark said he could see the...

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6. Bean Counters, Bureaucrats, and Cowboy Captains: The Human Factor in Shipwrecks

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pp. 331-368

the season, when the weekly reports resembled reports from a battlefield.1 Unfortunately, the carnage on the lakes was just beginning in the 1860s. There were just over 200 hundred serious shipping casualties during that entire decade. How would the Civil War-era historian have reacted to the 568 serious wrecks that occurred during the 1880s, or the more than 600 that took...


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pp. 369-390


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pp. 391-400


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pp. 401-416

E-ISBN-13: 9780814339411
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814328897

Page Count: 424
Illustrations: 64
Publication Year: 2000

Series Title: Great Lakes Books Series