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Remembering the Great Storm of 1913


Pointe Aux Barques LightHouse built 1857 by TamedWolf

Anyone who has spent time in Michigan late in the fall has probably heard Gordon Lightfoot singing of the gales of November. The big blow that sunk the Edmund Fitzgerald was far from the first (or deadliest). Wikipedia’s entry on the Great Lakes Storm of 1913 says that the 1913 storm was a blizzard with hurricane-force winds that devastated the Great Lakes Basin in the United States Midwest and the Canadian province of Ontario from November 7–10, 1913 that was referred to as the “Big Blow”, the “Freshwater Fury” or the “White Hurricane” and was:

The deadliest and most destructive natural disaster ever to hit the lakes, the Great Lakes Storm killed more than 250 people, and destroyed 19 ships and stranded 19 others. The financial loss in vessels alone was nearly US$5 million, or about $100 million at current value. This included about $1 million at current value in lost cargo totalling about 68,300 tons, such as coal, iron ore, and grain.

The Pointe Aux Barques Lighthouse Society has a detailed article by Glen Willis titled The Great Storm of 1913 that you should check out. He writes that this storm alone is known by all marine men as “The Storm” and includes accounts of those in the storm like:

The master of the Northern Queen was one of those that found himself on a reciprocal course. He said his ship was turned “end over end” and he found himself headed south when his destination was north. During a brief lull in the snowstorm he looked out his window and saw the Argus beating into the sea. As he watched, somewhere on the lake the Argus “disintegrated.” A wave at its bow and another at its stern raised the ship and left the middle unsupported. It cracked in two, and was gone.

View a slideshow of the Point Aux Barques Lighthouse in the Absolute Michigan group and check out more articles and links for Michigan shipwrecks from Absolute Michigan.