Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake by surface area and can be a cruel mistress. The Lake is said to be home to about 350 shipwrecks.

Before Lake Superior was given the name "Lake Superior", the Ojibwe gave it the name "gichi-gami". The name loosely translates to "great sea", so you may have heard of the big lake being called that from time to time.

Lake Superior is so big, it's bordered by Minnesota, Michigan, Ontario, and Wisconsin. I absolutely loved watch the Lake growing up. My grandpa built a house on Park Point and would constantly tell stories of great big ships that would make their way through, or some that didn't make it and now call the Lake home.

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Stories of shipwrecks have always interested me. About five years ago a Michigan man filmed what he believes was a ghost ship spotted in Lake Superior. Check it out below:

It has gotten over 3 million views and is definitely pretty interesting to see. A lot of people were saying it was just a "superior mirage". This happens when the air below the line of sight is colder than the air above it and an image appears to be located above the real object. Could be a mirage or an actual ghost ship sailing the Great Lake once again?

Let's not forget about the tugboat 'Lake Superior' that is sinking in the Duluth Harbor. Alright, enough talk about history and perhaps ghost ship sightings. Let's dive into some ship wreak history, shall we?

 9 Famous Shipwrecks On Lake Superior

The J.S. Seaverns

Probably one of coolest on this list since it's been preserved under water for so long. This cargo ship was built in 1880. Just four years later, it met its demise and now sits in Lake Superior. The ship sank during calm weather while it was backing away from the dock and striking rocks before taking in water. No lives were lost and the wreck is within scuba diving depths.


The most recent shipwreck to be found in Lake Superior is the Atlanta. The ship sank in 1891 as it was carrying coal and being towed by another vessel. Only two out of the nine crew members survived as they boarded a lifeboat and headed to shore. Unfortunately, the weather prevented them from making it and the lifeboat capsized 200 yards from shore. Craziest thing, the wreck went undiscovered for 130 years. It was found when the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society, was "mowing the lawn" with sonar.

Samuel P. Ely

This beauty was a schooner style ship that carried iron ore, coal, and other bulk freight. This is one of those stories that gets passed done from generation to generation. in 1896 while on the way to Two Harbors, a storm came raging through with heavy headwinds and high seas. The Hesper was trying to tow the barge into the port, but the Hesper had to cast off the towline due to the storm. Crew of the Ely dropped the anchors, but were unable to hold as the ship began to drift. After being wedged between rocks, the ship began to sink. With it being close to shore, many residents of Two Harbors watched the wreck. Luckily the ten men crew were saved by the tugboat Ella G. Stone, and it even took three trips.

Thomas Wilson

This shipwreck happened in Duluth and the video is taken from a location about 1 mile out of canal by the Lift Bridge. This ship was a Great Lakes Freighter called a Whaleback. In 1902, it was leaving the Duluth port when collided with another ship coming into the port, the George Hadley. Within minutes, the Wilson began sinking as the Hadley made its way to shore. Unfortunately nine out of the twenty man crew were lost in the collision. However, due to this horrific incident, it lead to new rules that are still intact today.

Curtis Lahr via YouTube
Curtis Lahr via YouTube


This tugboat was built was built in 1872 and sank near Duluth in 1904. It is classified as an "outside" tugboat that were designed for the lumber industry. While leaving Duluth, the tugboat got caught in heavy weather and began to deal with a malfunctioning compass. The shipped ended up crashing into rocks near the shoreline. Luckily the steel tugboat Edna G was close by and rescued the eleven crewmen and two passengers that were on board. You can see video of the wreckage up above with the Samuel P. Ely.

 Amboy & George Spencer

The wooden schooner barge Amboy and the wooden bulk freighter George Spencer were both wrecked in a 1905 storm. There were both bound to Duluth when the Mataafa Storm hit. According to Wikipedia, they have an excerpt from a 1905 issue of the Duluth Evening Herald from December 1st:

Both boats lost their bearings in the snowstorm and landed on a sandy beach. As soon as they struck, buoys with lines were thrown over the side. When they floated ashore they were caught by fishermen and made fast. With an improvised life buoy rigged in the hawsers the entire crew were taken safely to shore preceded by Mrs. Harry Lawe, wife of the mate, who was acting as steward. The vessels ran on the rocks Tuesday morning, and for thirteen hours the situation of the crew on the battered hulks was desperate. Fishermen rushed into the surf almost to their necks and aided the sailors to escape. The Spencer's cargo can be lightered but there is little hope for saving the boat. The vessels were coming up without cargo to load ore. Capt. Frank Conland sailed the Spencer and Fred Watson was master of the Amboy. The Spencer was valued at $35,000 and the Amboy at $10,000

Both ships can be seen off the shore of the Sugar Loaf Cove on the North Shore.

SS Benjamin Noble

After missing for 90 years and being labeled a "ghost ship", this Lake Freighter was discovered in Lake Superior. It was built as a "canaller", or a canal vessel before being converted into a cargo ship for the Great Lakes. In 1914, a storm came hurling through. Legend has it that the ship was warned it was over loaded. It was full with steel rails, disappeared in the storm off the Knife River. A video of a Noble lifeboat underwater can be seen here.

Edmund Fitzgerald

Time for the most famous wreck on the list as Gordon Lightfoot even has a song about it. The ore carrier vanished in a storm in 1975. All twenty nine of the crew also went missing with the ship. Above is a video of radio chatter between the Arthur M. Anderson and the Coast Guard back in 1975.

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