True Stories Of Ships And The Men That Sailed Them

Within these links are stories and pictures of ships and the men and women that sailed them, many of them lost at sea or on the Great Lakes.

Rescue On The Blue Sky M

Refugee Ship Blue Sky M

On December 30, 2014, the Greek Coast Guard was alerted to the possibility that a ship off the Mediterranean Island of Othonoi was carrying "illegal immigrants" after authorities received a strange cell-phone emergency call from an unknown person. Before the Coast Guard could dispatch assistance a person claiming to be the ship’s captain reported that it was a false alarm. He said the ship was in no danger and not requesting assistance. At that time the vessel changed course and steamed toward southern Italy without a crew. That ship was the cargo carrier Blue Sky M. Click For More


Great Lakes Steamers Named Alabama

Lone before the U. S. Navy began naming warships after the State of Alabama, at least two popular steamers sailed the Great Lakes under that same name. Both enjoyed relatively successful careers as passenger and freight carriers. The first Alabama on record was a 234-foot wooden side-wheel steamer launched at Detroit in 1848. The second Alabama was launched for the Goodrich Transit Co. of Chicago in 1909. It was a propeller driven ship with a steel hull. Click For Story


Nineteenth Century Steamship Michigan

The first real steamship built at Detroit in 1847 was the Michigan, a 156-foot-long vessel propelled by duel engines working wheels on both sides. It was an early design for steamships, and the fact that the two wheels were powered by separate engines sometimes created problems. While the arrangement worked well in calm weather, when the vessel was rolling in high seas and stormy weather, the raising of one wheel out of the water while the other was laboring in deep water caused the boat to lurch and jerk from side-to-side. Passengers and crew members had to hang on for dear life. More . . .

Tilting Auto Carrier

Listing Hoegh Osaka Safely Back In Port

The Norwegian car transport ship Hoegh Osaka made sensational news January 3, 2015 when it took on a serious list and forced its crew to drive it aground off the Isle of Wight at the start of a trip from Southampton, England, to Germany. The 590-foot freighter made a spectacular site as it lay almost on its side for four days in the English Channel. The ship was loaded with 1,400 new cars that included 1,200 Jaguars and Land Rovers plus heavy construction equipment. Click For More


What Caused The Cemfjord To Capsize?

Gale force winds were forecast on the morning of January 2, 2015, when the 273-foot cargo carrier Cemfjord turned turtle on the open seas and sank off North Scotland. The disaster happened so fast and so unexpectedly that the ship never got off a radio distress call and none of the eight crew members had a chance to escape. The puzzle about the Cemfjord is that it was laden with 2,000 tons of concrete and consequently riding low in the water with a lot of ballast when it encountered the storm. Click For More

Burning Of The Erie

Eerie Lights Over Lake Erie

A few years ago the UFO hunters were citing strange lights over Lake Erie as proof of new sightings of alien ships in our skies. A report in in one of the web sites recalls clippings from area newspapers dating back to the mid-1800s where people along the shore saw unexplained lights and thought they were from burning ships. Are they watching a spectre of the fire that destroyed the Steamer Erie in 1841? Click For Story

Schooner St. Peter Under Tow

The Sinking Of The St. Peter

Captain John Griffin was the sole survivor after his ship, the three-mast schooner St. Peter foundered in a Lake Ontario storm on October 27, 1898. Griffin’s wife and the ship’s crew of eight others were lost with the schooner. The 135-foot vessel was sailing from Oswego, New York to Toledo, Ohio with 700 tons of coal when it encountered a fierce early winter blizzard as it was approaching the Welland Canal. Click For Story 

Maid-of-the-Mist 1885

Niagara’s Maids-Of-The-Mist

Visitors to Niagara Falls are familiar with the Main-of-the-Mist, a small excursion vessel that carries passengers on daring up-close trips to the foot of the falls and back down stream. It always appears to be in view, and many have enjoyed boarding the vessel and taking the ride. There are two Maid-of-the-Mists making the trip these days. They are Maid’s V and VI, two relatively modern steel boats with powerful diesel engines. But the history of small excursion vessels bearing that name dates back to 1846 when the first Maid-of-the-Mist was launched as a ferry, carrying people to and from the U.S. and Canadian sides of the Niagara River. Click For Story

William D. Lawrence

Giant Ship William D. Lawrence

At 262 feet, the full-rigged sailing ship William D. Lawrence was a midget compared to the thousand-foot-long monsters dominating the waters of the world today. But when launched at Maitland, Nova Scotia in 1874, the vessel had the distinction of being one of the largest wooden hulled sailing ships ever built and certainly the largest ship of its kind ever built in Canada. Click For Story


Burning Of The Erie – 1841

The explosion and burning of the steamship Erie, on Lake Erie, on August 9, 1841 was marked among the worst of the early ship disasters on the Great Lakes. An estimated 170 lives were lost. The Erie was a typical early American steamship. It was considered a fine vessel at 176-feet in length. Launched at Erie, Penn. In 1838, the wooden ship was driven by side-mounted paddle wheels and designed to carry both passengers and freight from Buffalo to Chicago. Consequently, it was carrying an estimated 200 passengers, most of them German and Swiss immigrants traveling via the lakes and heading toward the American west on that final fateful trip from Buffalo, bound for Chicago. Click For More

Drumelzier Hard Aground

Wreck Of The Drumelzier

The remains of the British steamship Drumelzier lie just off Sandy Hook on the New Jersey coast where it wrecked after going on the rocks during a blinding snowstorm on Christmas Day, 1904. The crew of 30 sailors was safely removed by local lifesavers, and an unsuccessful effort was made by local tug boats to pull the ship back into deep water. The 340-foot steel ship and its cargo of various items including 2000 tons of steel billets were lost. Click For Story



James L. Donahue is the author of four fine books crammed with Great Lakes shipwreck and shipping history. His books, available through Thunderbay Press, can be purchased on line at Amazon, Borders and other popular book sellers. They include Steaming Through Smoke and Fire, Steamboats In Ice 1872, Terrifying Steamboat Stories and Schooners In Peril.

All written material on this site is copyright protected. Reproduction on other sites is permitted if proper credit is given and the material is not sold or used for financial gain. Reproduction for print media is prohibited unless there is expressed permission from the author, James L. Donahue.

Great And Lost Ships Of The World