Showing posts with label Harbor History. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Harbor History. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Harbor History - Irvin L. Clymer Pilothouse

You may have noticed on the harborcams a lonely looking pilothouse located on the end of the Duluth Timber Pier near Pier B.
(the following information was provided by Capt. Tom Mackay and Capt. Edward Montgomery)

The IRVIN L. CLYMER was built in 1917 at the American Ship Building Company in Lorain, Ohio. She had a crew of 16. She was 552 feet long with a 60 ft. beam and a 32 ft. draft. Launched as the self-unloader CARL D. BRADLEY (1) for the Great Lakes Fleet, she made her maiden voyage from Lorain Ohio to Calcite MI on June 10, 1917 for a load of stone. She sailed under that name until 1927 when she was renamed JOHN G. MUNSON (1). In 1951 she was again renamed, IRVIN L. CLYMER. She was scrapped at Azcon in Duluth in 1994, when the pilothouse was salvaged by a private party and unloaded at the end of the Duluth Timber Pier where it sits today. Duluth was the Clymer’s home port for many years and had a nickname of the "Whiner Clymer"
Photo: courtesy of
Photo: courtesy of

Irvin L Clymer - Dennis O'Hara

Irvin L Clymer - Dennis O'Hara

Irvin L Clymer - Dennis O'Hara

Irvin L Clymer - Dennis O'Hara

Irvin L Clymer - Dennis O'Hara

Irvin L Clymer - Dennis O'Hara

Irvin L Clymer - Dennis O'Hara

Irvin L Clymer - Dennis O'Hara

Monday, September 14, 2015

Nautical History: September 14, 1915: The Onoko Sinks in Lake Superior

September 14, 1915: The Onoko Sinks in Lake Superior - Zenith City Online
On this day on Lake Superior in 1915 the freighter Onoko, a thirty-three year veteran of the great lakes, sank nine miles off Knife Island, about sixteen miles from Duluth. At roughly 10:30 a.m. the ship’s engineer noticed a leak below the engines. The water quickly drowned the engine fires and the captain recognized the […]

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Harbor History; September 6, 1905: Superior arrives in Superior

On this day across the bay in 1905, the steamer Superior, captained by Donald Gillis, arrived for the first time in the city she was named for. She steamed to Elevator K at Superior’s East End and took on a partial load of grain; the next day the rest of the vessel was loaded with […]
The steamer Superior. (Image: Great Lakes Vessel Index.)

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Harbor History -September 5, 1870: The Ishpeming Starts Carving a Canal

Story provided by: : Zenith City Online
On this day in Duluth in 1870, the dredging tug Ishpeming, owned by W. W. Williams & Co. and piloted by Major John Upham, bit into Minnesota Point along a dirt roadway platted as Portage Street, which followed the same path local Ojibwe called Onigamiinsing or “Little Portage,” the very trail thought to be taken […]
The dredging tug Ishpeming and a barge docked along Minnesota Point near wear the tug cut the Duluth Ship Canal. (Image: Lake Superior Maritime Collection.)

Friday, September 4, 2015

Harbor History - The Fire Tug William A. McGonagle

Our Great Lakes Namesake Vessel for September is the fire tug William A. McGonagle, named for William Albert McGonagle, who came to Duluth in 1882 to work as an assistant engineer on the Duluth & Iron Range Railroad and twenty years later he became the president of the Duluth, Missabe & Northern Railway. Those two […] Read more of this post
The fire tug William A. McGonagle as seen in a lithographic postcard made between 1915 and 1925.
(Image: Zenith City Press)

Harbor History - September 4, 1913: Aerial Bridge Out of Commission

On this day in Duluth in 1913, a cable that pulled the Duluth Aerial Transfer Bridge’s gondola car snapped, disabling the ferry bridge stranding the car—and passengers—above the North Pier of the Duluth Ship Canal. Passengers had to descend the car using a ladder; there were no teams or automobiles on the ferry car. Vehicles […] Read more of this post  
Duluth’s Aerial transfer Bridge, predecessor to the Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge. (Image: Duluth Public Library.)

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Nautical History - September 1, 1905: Four ships lost in Lake Superior gale

Post from: Zenith City Online
On this day on Lake Superior in 1905, four vessels steaming from Duluth and Superior wrecked in a late summer gale. The Sevona left Superior’s Allouez ore docks headed for a port on Lake Erie when the storm struck here near the Apostle Island. The Sevona struck the shoals between Sand and York Islands when […]Read more of this post

Sunday, September 1, 2013

September 1, 1905: Four ships lost in Lake Superior gale

On this day on Lake Superior in 1905, four vessels steaming from Duluth and Superior wrecked in a late summer gale. The Sevona left Superior’s Allouez ore docks headed for a port on Lake Erie when the storm struck here near the Apostle Island. The Sevona struck the shoals between Sand and York Islands when […]

Friday, June 7, 2013

June 7, 1928: The Steamship America goes down

By Tony Dierkins - Zenith City Online
The America DEPICTED in a postcard made between 1900 and 1915. (Image: X-Comm)

The America DEPICTED in a postcard made between 1900 and 1915. (Image: X-Comm)
On this day in Duluth in 1928, the beloved Steamship America wrecked at Isle Royale. The America left Grand Marais the previous evening for Isle Royale to drop off passengers at the Singer Hotel Dock on Washington Island before heading to Port Arthur (today’s Thunder Bay), Ontario. In the early morning hours of June 7, with the first mate at the helm, she struck a reef near Isle Royale’s Washington Harbor, skidding over the rocks four times and ripping a hole in her hull just below the engine room on the starboard side. The ship’s pumps couldn’t keep up with the water pouring in. The captain ordered the ship to steer for the north gap of Washington Harbor in an attempt to beach her, but it struck more rocks and stopped ninety feet from shore.
Read Rest of The Story

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Harbor History May 9, 1901: The Bon Voyage Sinks

By Tony Dierkins- Zenith City Online

On this day in Duluth in 1901, Singer’s White Line transportation company’s steamer Bon Voyage left Duluth heading for Michigan’s copper country but never made it to Houghton—and neither did five of her passengers. Six miles outside the Portage Ship Canal (aka the Portage Waterway or Keweena Waterway), the vessel caught fire and headed for Red Ridge, the nearest community on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. A woman described as the “grandmother of the Altman family” jumped into Lake Superior along with her daughter and three granddaughters. All but the youngest child died. An unknown young man also met the same fate. All other passengers were rescued. The Bon Voyage was built in 1891 at Sugatuck, Michigan, measured 153 feet long, and could take on a load of 500 tons. The vessel was a total loss and later removed by Duluth salvagers Clow & Nicholson and scrapped in the Zenith City. Newspaper articles about the event can be found here.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

February 23, 1905: First ever crossing of the gondola car

February 23, 1905: First ever crossing of the gondola car
By Tony Dierckins

 Duluth’s Aerial Transfer Bridge, predecessor to the Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge. (Image: Duluth Public Library.) On this day in Duluth in 1905, the Aerial Transfer Bridge made its first crossing with, as the Duluth News Tribune put it, a “load of human freight.” City Engineer Thomas McGilvray invited two hundred people to witness the ferry car’s first crossing. He included local dignitaries such as Mayor Cullum, Common Council President Roland D. Haven, Colonel Hubert Eva, Chief of Police Chauncy H. Troyer; Chief DM&IR Engineer Herman L. Dresser as well as members of his own staff and the team from the Modern Steel Structural Company, who built the bridge. At 4:30 in the afternoon of February 23, 1905, these men entered the car at the south tower and prepared to cross. The bridge was not yet fully complete—some of the false wooden work still stood against the south tower. McGilvray himself controlled the car, which began rolling without so much as a hiccup. One of the workmen posted atop the bridge as a safety measure decided to have a little fun with the crowd, striking at the false staging work with a wooden plank and shouting to cut the power. Afraid that “heavy objects were about to crash to the deck,” many sought protection under the car’s awnings. After a good laugh—and reassurance that a joke had been played, nothing more—the ferry car moved ahead. Riders felt “only a slight vibration” while the car moved northward. As it reached the north end of the canal with “a gentle motion, an almost imperceptible contact against the air cushion in the approach, it stopped and locked automatically.” The entire trip lasted one minute and fifteen seconds, but it had been over fifteen years in the making. TBridge_2.24.1905_DNT. Discover the entire history of the Duluth Aerial Bridge here.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Duluth Canal and Lift Bridge History

I took some time during the past few weeks to put together this video on the history of the Lift Bridge and Canal.  We have such a rich nautical history around the "Head of the Lakes" that I thought a video would be worthwhile.  Sorry that it so long (53 minutes), but, there is a lot to tell.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Edward L. Ryerson (Fast Eddy on Ice)

Anyone traveling from Superior to Duluth during the past few years can’t help but notice a particularly striking Laker tied up near the Blatnik Bridge.  The boat is the Edward L Ryerson, once labeled the “Queen of the Lake”.

Since today was a bright beautiful winter day, it was a perfect time to stop by the old girl and see how she was doing. Winter is a great time to walk across the frozen slips and get a better look at many of the boats layed up for the season.

The Edward L. Ryerson, is one of only two remaining straight-deck bulk carriers still part of the American fleet on the Great Lakes.  Built by Manitowoc Shipbuilding Co., the new boat was launched January 21, 1960, and christened Edward L. Ryerson for the Inland Steel Co. of Chicago, IL. The new laker was the first of five American-flagged ships to be added to the "730-class" of lake boats in the early 1960's.  The Ryerson became the third of thirteen 730' carriers to eventually share in the "Queen of the Lakes" title for being the longest ships on the Great Lakes.  

The boat's namesake, Mr. Edward Larned Ryerson, was born in Chicago on December 3rd, 1886.  He had been president of the steel service center Joseph T. Ryerson and Son, Inc. until 1935 when it was merged with Inland Steel.  Mr. Ryerson was chairman of the board from 1940 until his retirement in 1953 of both Inland Steel and his original company.  Mr. Ryerson died in Chicago on August 2nd, 1971.

The Edward L. Ryerson is among the most beautiful of all lakers, from her beautifully flared bow and the top of her pilot house to her significant but streamlined stack to her curved and tapered stern as well as her striking paint job, no expense or effort was spared during her building to achieve this goal.  Over $8 million was reported to have been spent on the actual accommodations alone.   The Ryerson was built to transport iron ore, fast at the expense of poor capabilities to haul other cargo. A conversion to a self-unloader was deferred because of excessive cost to retrofit the square holds.

The Ryerson is a fast boat and is able to reach speeds up to 19 mph earning her the nickname "Fast Eddie" as one of the quickest ships on the Great Lakes. She can carry approximately 24,869 tons, one third of today’s 1000ft lakers.

The Ryerson’s  working career was placed on hold in 2009 when she laid up at Superior's Fraser Shipyard and has been on hold ever since. Economic conditions are still keeping this beautiful vessel from a return to service, but, someday, the lady may once again become a subject of delight for photographers and boatwatchers alike.

To learn more about the Ryerson: visit

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Harbor History - Minnesota Point Lighthouse

The other day I hiked down to the end of Park Point and upon seeing the ruins of the old Minnesota Point Lighthouse I was inspired to do a quick historical video on this once important lighthouse. I hope you find this 23 minute presentation interesting and informative.

Friday, February 8, 2013

February 8, 1910 Beer wagon goes through Ice on St. Louis River

February 8, 1910 Beer wagon goes through Ice on St. Louis River
By Tony Dierckins Zenith City Online

On this day in Duluth in 1910, former Third Ward alderman Maurice McGinnis was driving a rig for Superior’s Northern Brewery over the frozen St. Louis River when the ice gave way. Horses, wagon, driver, and beer all plunged into the river. McGinniss manager to pull himself out of the frigid waters and “suffered no ill effects from his icy bath.” The horses did not fair as well—all drowned. McGinnis was on his way to deliver beer to Henry Ward’s saloon “near the steel plant,” which was under construction next to what would become Morgan Park. The beer got away as well. Despite the deaths of the “valuable team,” the Duluth News Tribune seemed more concerned with the loss of beer. Two days after the accident the newspaper printed a story under the bold headline “NO EFFORT TO RECOVER BEER KEGS FROM RIVER.” The paper reported that there was little chance of finding the kegs under the ice, and that they were likely already carried away downstream by the river’s current. It then pondered the upcoming thaw: “In the spring, the time the poet says a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love, there are expected to be a large number of lovers of the amber fluid scattered along the St. Louis searching for the missing kegs.

Read More at Zenith City Press

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Essayons Update

A while back I did a post about the Tug Essayons that had sunk in the harbor. Today, I turned one of the harbor cams for a closer look. Sadly, the mighty tug remains sitting on the bottom of the harbor in one of the slips near Duluth Timber.
Hopefully, someday, it may be raised and restored.  I have posted the original post at the bottom of this one.

Here is the old post! If anyone has any old photos of the Esayons, I would love to post them the the blog.

The other day when I happened to be out taking pictures, I ran across the remains of the old Essayons tugboat resting on the bottom of the harbor with only the pilot house and smokestack sticking out of the surface like a grave marker.

Once the pride of the fleet, the Essayons was the historic retired Army Corps of Engineers tugboat that had been a Twin Ports fixture since 1908. The tug's engine is on display at the Marine Museum in Canal Park. 
The tug's owner was hoping to turn the boat into a floating bed and breakfast. However, vandal damage postponed the plan in 2004 and the tug was than docked near the Duluth Timber Company.
In 2009, shifting harbor ice pushed by a strong northeast wind, punctured the hull and the boat sank the the bottom, where it still rests today.
Perhaps someday it will be raised, but, for now, it quietly rests in peace, out of sight, and unnoticed.
"ESSAYONS" means - "Let Us Try" and is the branch song of the Army Corps of Engineers.

Essayons, sound out the battle cry
Essayons, we'll win or we'll die
Essayons, there's nothing we won't try
We're the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Pin the castle on my collar
I've done my training for the team
You can call me an engineer soldier
The warrior spirit has been my dream
We are builders, we are fighters
We are destroyers just as well
There've been doubters who met with the sappers
1 - We know our sappers will never fail
2 - And then we blew them all straight to hell
Our brothers fighting on the battlefield
Look to us to point the way
We get there first and then we take the risks
To build the roads and the air strips
And bridge the mighty river streams
We don't care who gets the glory
We're sure of one thing, this we know
Somewhere out there an engineer soldier
Designed the plan for the whole darn show
Essayons whether in war or peace
We will bear our red and our white
Essayons we serve America
And the U.S. Army Corps of engineers
Essayons! Essayons!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

December 8, 1961: The Duluth-Superior Bridge Opens to Traffic

The Blatnik Bridge side-by-side with the remains of the Interstate Bridge.
By: Tony Dierckins Zenith City Online - On this day in Duluth and Superior in 1961, the Duluth-Superior Bridge opened to automobile traffic, the first modern bridge to span the St. Louis Bay between the neighboring cities, known since the 1890s as the Twin Ports. The new span replaced the Interstate Bridge, a swinging toll bridge that stretched from Rice’s Point in Duluth to Connor’s Point in Superior from 1897 until 1961. (It was partially dismantled in 1971, and a remaining portion of the bridge still stretches from Rice’s Point and is used as a fishing dock.) To allow shipping traffic to pass beneath the structure, the 7,975-foot bridge rose 120 feet above the water. It quickly became known as the High Bridge. In order to build the 2,800-foot approach to the new bridge, nearly the entire Garfield Avenue Residential District was razed. In 1971 the bridge was renamed the John A. Blatnik Bridge in honor of the DFL congressman from Chisholm who played a major role in making the bridge a reality. When the bridge was rededicated in Blatnik’s name in 1971, Secretary of Transportation John Volpe said that Blatnik “played a key role in establishing and fostering the foundation for this magnificent [Interstate Highway] program back during the Eisenhower Administration.” John Blatnik was a big supporter of the St. Lawrence Seaway, helped pass the 1972 Clean Water Act—and voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964. When he retired after 28 years in office (1947–1975), Jim Oberstar—Blatnik’s administrative assistant—took his place in Congress. Oberstar served until January, 2011.

Friday, December 7, 2012

December 7, 1940: Duluth’s USS Paducah Arrives in Brooklyn

By Tony Dierkins: Zenith City Online
On this day in 1940, the USS Paducah—training vessel of the Duluth Naval Militia—and her crew of naval reservists from Duluth arrived in Brooklyn, New York, where it would spend the next few years training sailors for battle during the Second World War. Launched in 1904, the Paducah was a Dubuque-class gunboat that joined the U.S. Navy’s Caribbean Squadron in 1906. During World War I the Paducah operated out of Gibraltor, escorting convoys on the way to North Africa, Italy, the Azores, and Medeira. She returned to duty in the Caribbean before arriving in Duluth in June of 1921, replacing the USS Essex. From 1940 to 1945 the Paduch was a common site on Chesapeake Bay, where she trained Naval Armed Guard Gunners. The gunners were sailors and officers who served on armed merchant vessels because the navy itself did not have enough ships to protect the merchant fleet. After the war the Paducah was sold to an individual in Florida, who then sold her to the Israeli group Haganah and renamed her Geula or “Redemption.” She was eventually turned into a merchant ship before being sold for scrap in 1951. Read the Veteran Memorial Hall’s entry on the Paducah here, and the personal story of Paducah sailor Steve Blach here.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Harbor History: Leif Erickson Replica Viking Boat

By: Tony Dierkins, Zenith City Online

Duluth’s Leif Erickson replica Viking ship was built in Norway in 1926 for Captain Gerhard Folgero. According to historian Pat Labadie—whose father and grandfather built the boat—the Leif Erikson was a 42-foot wooden “femboring” craft “patterned after the traditional Norwegian working craft that served coastal shippers and fisherfolk for centuries [and was] used by medieval Norse adventurers and explorers.” So the Leif Erikson is not a precise replica of a Viking craft but a representation of the same class and style of boat likely used by Leif Erikson himself.

Captain Folgero and his crew outfitted their vessel with carved head and tail pieces and wooden shields bearing Viking devices and sailed the dressed-up fishing boat from Bergen, Norway, to the coast of Labrador and beyond, supposedly following much of Leif Erikson’s original 1002 route.

It wasn’t easy. They faced hurricane-like winds, icebergs, and weeks of fog. But they made it to Labrador and on to Boston, covering 6,700 miles in 50 days. From Boston they sailed on to Duluth to take part in a national convention of Norwegian emigrants. By the time they arrived here they had covered roughly 10,000 miles. That they accomplished this in a 42-foot boat outfitted with only oars and a square sail is nothing short of remarkable.

That’s when congressman William Carss suggested Duluthians raise funds to purchase the ship and move it to Lakeshore Park, then rename the park in the boat’s honor. But it was Bert Enger and Emil Olson, West End furniture dealers and Norwegian immigrants, who purchased the boat and gave it to Duluth for all to enjoy, and indeed Lakeshore Park was rechristened Leif Erikson Park. The boat was once considered Duluth’s second-largest tourist attraction, just behind the Aerial Lift Bridge.

In 1984 Neill Atkins and Will Borg, Emil Olson’s grandson, established Save Our Ship (S.O.S.) to renovate, preserve, and protect the vessel. They have struggled to raise fund to properly protect the boat, displaying a mixed record of stewardship. S.O.S.’s ironic initial idea was to not save the boat at all but to scrap it (the News-Tribune suggested she be burned in Lake Superior, like a Viking funeral). S.O.S. would then build a longboat-style warship to replace it, even though the boat was modeled after Viking merchant vessels built before the Norsemen became marauders.

Due to budget concerns, the replacement plan itself was scrapped and a renovation plan put into place. It took years to raise the funds, but a major overhaul was accomplished in 1996. The boat was then freed from a chicken-wire enclosure that had protected it for years and then moored in a more elegant berth within the park. Fear of vandals, however, has left it covered in shrink wrap waiting for a proper home.

S.O.S. has struggled since to raise money for an appropriate shelter. The will has always been there, but the funds have not always materialized. In the late 1990s Save Our Ship considered moving it to the Great Lakes Aquarium. The idea couldn’t have sat well with Borg, as he was once quoted as saying, “Leif Erikson Park without a ship is like Canal park without a lift bridge.”

In 2012 another group of developers proposed moving the boat to a retail development to be constructed at the “Lafarge” site, just west of Bayfront Park. That project has not materialized.

From Zenith City Press’s forthcoming “Pearls on a String: History of Duluth’s Parks.”

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Harbor History: November 28 , 1905: The Mataafa Storm

By ; Zenith City Online

On this day on Lake Superior in 1905, a great storm began, known to many as the “Thanksgiving Storm” and, more often, the “Mataafa Storm.” The storm produced hurricane-force winds, and the water on Lake Superior’s western end was so high it drove through Minnesota Point at a spot known as “the barrens” hard enough to cut a channel. That day and the next, twenty-nine ships were wrecked or suffered damage, seventeen were stranded, and at least one foundered. The human toll was also heavy; the storm took thirty-three souls, nine of them just outside Duluth’s ship canal. The Mataafa, hauling a load of iron, steamed hard for the canal and safety beyond it. But as the Mataafa entered the canal, currents and wind gusts forced the ship into the north pier; conditions then carried it back into the lake before slamming it broadside against the pierhead. About 150 yards from shore, the Mataafa settled to the lake bottom and split in two. Members of the U.S. Life Savers stood helplessly on shore, the storm too strong to launch their lifeboats. That night thousands of Duluthians lined the shore, standing vigil as the storm pounded the wounded ship. When the Life Savers finally reached the ship the next morning they found fifteen sailors—including the ship’s captain—alive. Unfortunately, nine of the crew either drowned or froze to death. 

Read more about the Mataafa storm here and a sample of the newspaper coverage of the event here: MataafaStorm_11.29.1905_DNT,MataafaStorm_11.29.1905_02_DNTMataafaStorm_11.29.1905_02_DNT,MataafaStorm_11.30.1905_DNTMataafaStorm_11.30.1905_02_DNT.