Ships 2

D. R. Hanna

Ships 3

D. R. Hanna

Pilot Error Sunk The D. R. Hanna

By James Donahue

A blunder by the pilot of the Great Lakes Freighter Quincy A. Shaw set the stage for a collision that sank the grain carrier D. R. Hanna off Thunder Bay on May 16, 1919.

Both steel carriers were approaching each other in light fog in the afternoon hours, but the Hanna, Captain S. B. Massey at the helm, was steaming out of the established downbound shipping lane, which meant the boats were set up for an unconventional starboard to starboard passage.

Great Lakes carriers normally followed routes on the lakes that called for port-to-port side passing when they crossed paths.

It was said that the two steamers would have passed without incident, but the pilot on the Shaw apparently felt a starboard-to-starboard passing was “improper.” As the two vessels approached, the Shaw sounded a single blast on its whistle, announcing a port-to-port passage. And the ship suddenly began to turn, putting it on a collision course with the Hanna.

When he saw what was about to happen, Captain Massey sounded an alarm, ordered his ship’s engines in full reverse. The Shaw hit the Hanna just forward of the Number 4 hatch, cracking open the grain-filled holds. Massey knew his vessel was doomed. He ordered the 32-member crew to abandon ship and everybody escaped before the 532-foot steamer rolled over and sank.

The crew members were picked up by the Shaw, which was laden with coal but her forward bulkhead held and she did not sink.

The Hanna was one of the largest vessels to have been lost on the lakes at the time of the accident. The boat sank in 90 feet of water, too deep for salvage.

The Hanna was built at Lorain, Ohio, in 1906.

The Shaw later was involved in a second collision that sent the barge Harriet B. to the bottom off Two Harbors, Minnesota, on May 3, 1922.