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Grain Carrier Panther Sunk In 1916 Collision

By James Donahue

The wooden grain freighter Panther is one of a lost fleet of ships, lying at the bottom of Lake Superior's Whitefish Bay. The Panther came to a quick and unexpected end when it was struck amidships by the ore carrier James.J. Hill off Parisian Island.

The accident happened in dense fog at 10:30 p.m. on June 26, 1916. There were no casualties because Capt. George Randolph, master of the Hill kept his wits. Knowing his ship had just struck a fatal blow when it collided with the smaller wooden hulled boat, Randolph left the Hill's steel bow buried in the hole in the side of the Panther until every member of the sinking boat's crew had the time to jump to the Hill's deck.

Randolph was lauded for saving lives. That his boat rammed and the Panther seemed to have been forgotten, or at least forgiven by the newspapers of the day. They said that the moment Randolph gave his engineer the order to back the Hill the flooded Panther capsized and sank in about 100 feet of water.

'The Hill which was only lightly damaged, took the crew of the Panther back to Sault Ste. Marie where the accident was reported.

It was an uneven contest.

The Hill, which was steaming up empty, was a 478-foot-long steel ship. while the 26- year old Panther was a wooden boat measuring 236 feet. The Panther had been purchased by the Massey Steamship Co. of Fort William, Ont. and put in the grain trade less than a month before the accident. The boat was loaded with 65,000 bushels of wheat, bound from Fort William to Midland, Ont.

The Panther was among a large fleet of wooden boats built at West Bay City. It was launched in 1890.