Ghost Fleet of Lake Superior
Tragedy & History on Lake Superior
By Dave Grandmaison
Strange disappearances, slime-covered ships, ghostly apparitions…
Legends tell of a ghost fleet doomed to navigate the cold waters of Lake Superior for all eternity – a ghastly fleet of wrecked ships and unlucky seamen who have disappeared without a trace. Tales of strange sightings and supernatural encounters certainly abound but the real history of these ships is as frightening as the legends.
The stories of ships like the Adella Shores, the Bannockburn, and the Hudson (among others) are tragic and rich. Thanks to research conducted by our friends at Zenith City Online and a bit of online sleuthing by the Duluth Experience Team, the tales of Lake Superior’s Ghost Fleet have made their way into the compendium of Lake Superior’s tragic maritime history – perfect material to include in our Dark History Bus Tour!
Related: Duluth’s Dark History Bus Tour
The story of the Adella Shores is a great example of tragedy and legend… and we’ll share a bit of the wrecked barge’s story with you here.
According to witness accounts immortalized in old newspaper clippings, the Adella Shores was lost during its very first voyage on April 21st, 1909. When the barge steamed out of its Ashland harbor it was loaded with a cargo of lumber destined for Superior, WI. On that fateful day, no one could have known that the vessel would meet destruction in a Lake Superior gale and that none of the 21 crew members would survive to tell their story.
Neither the ship nor its crew were ever seen again but the old newspaper clippings we found online reported that a large quantity of wreckage – the pilot house, a cabin containing a mirror, a yawl boat, a skylight and other debris – was seen by passing ships between Sable Point and Whitefish.
Related: A Fateful Ferry in the Duluth Harbor
According to Zenith City Online, the vessel’s fate may have been sealed well before setting out from Ashland. According to their article “The Ghost Fleet of Lake Superior” the ship’s owner Walter Shores was a prominent leader in Wisconsin’s Temperance Movement. Having named the ship after his daughter, Shores decided that christening the new ship in the traditional manner – breaking a bottle of champagne against the bow – was inappropriate. Instead, the ship owner used a bottle of lake water in the christening.
Of course, as many a seasoned mariner knows… this was the act that sealed the fate for the Adella Shores and its unfortunate crew.