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Minnesota's Lake Superior Shipwrecks

Lake Superior wave

The cold fresh water of the Great Lakes has preserved an important part of our history - in shipwrecks! Each one is a unique and integral part of the fabric of America's maritime heritage. Together, they provide physical contact with and offer an exciting opportunity to explore the past. Because they represent a valuable but finite and nonrenewable resource, we must provide for their protection and preservation. If we don't, the first generation to have ready access to shipwrecks will be the last to enjoy them.

In the interest of preserving Minnesota's Lake Superior shipwrecks and other underwater archaeological sites, the State Historic Preservation Office of the Minnesota Historical Society has initiated a program of submerged cultural resource management. The Society hopes you will join its effort to preserve our maritime heritage.

Updated: 11/25/96

Discovering the Past


Underwater Cultural Resources - A Management Philosophy


List of Lake Superior Shipwrecks


DRAFT - Minnesota's Submerged Cultural Resources Plan

Tip: Click on the ship's image or name below for an online exhibit of text and photos.
Tip: Most of the photos have full size versions, click on the photo to view it.

Thomas WilsonThe steel whaleback steamer Thomas Wilson sank in a collision outside of Duluth harbor on June 9, 1902. With holds still full of Mesabi ore, the steamer lies in 70 feet of water. Photos

MadeiraThe Madeira, a schooner-barge built in 1900, was one of 20 ships wrecked in a violent storm near Split Rock in 1905. Photos

NiagaraThe log rafting tug Niagara, built in 1872, sank off Knife Island in 1904. Remains of the Niagara include a large section of the bow and a section of the side lying in 80 to 100 feet of water. Photos

OnokoIn 1915, the first iron-built bulk freighter on the Great Lakes, the Onoko sank about six miles east of Knife River. The Onoko lies upside down in 200 feet of water. Photos

HesperThe wooden freighter Hesper, battered in a storm, sank on May 3, 1905, en route to Two Harbors. The well-preserved remains of the hull lie in shallow water near the Silver Bay breakwater. Photos

USS EssexThe USS Essex (1874-1931), a navy gunboat that burned and sank in shallow water near Duluth, was one of the last vessels built by Donald McKay, the master builder of clipper ships. Photos

Coming in February

Amboy & SpencerThe Amboy (1874-1905), a wooden schooner-barge, sank during the famous Mataafa Storm south of Taconite Harbor. An archaeological survey there has located the remains of the George Spencer (1884-1905), the vessel that had been towing the Amboy.

Coming in February

Samuel P. ElyThe wooden schooner, the Samuel P. Ely, was wrecked on October 29, 1896 when she broke from a tug at Two Harbors, Minnesota in a gale, and then blew across the harbor into the stone breakwater then under construction.

Funding for this project was approved by the Minnesota Legislature (1996-97; ML 1995 Chapter 220, Sec. 19 Sudb. 12 (f); 1992-93, ML 91, Chapter 254, Art. I, Sec. 14 Subd. 3(h), and 1990-91 ML 89, Chapter 335, Art. 1, Sec. 23, Subd. 9(f))as recommended by the Legislative Commission on Minnesota Resources from the Minnesota Future Resources Fund.

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