Ships 2


Ships 3

Drawing Of Indiana

Indiana Destroyed By Broken Propeller Blade

By James Donahue

After more than a century of mystery, the cause of the sinking of the wooden-hulled steamship Indiana off Lake Superior’s Crisp Point on June 6, 1858, has been discovered. Divers who found the wreck say the vessel was hulled by the very thing that made it unique . . . one of its propeller blades.

When launched in Vermilion, Ohio, in 1848, the 145-foot-long “schooner-barge” was one of the first propeller-driven steamships used on the Great Lakes. Earlier steamships were driven by massive paddle wheels mounted on their sides. Of even more historic interest, the propeller was designed by famed inventor John Ericsson and was among the first of his new propellers to be used to drive American steamboats.

In exploring the wreck, which lies somewhat intact in about 100 feet of water, divers found that one of the propeller blades broke loose and struck the ship’s sternpost, which caused the leak that sank the Indiana. The 21 crew members who escaped the ore-laden ship before it sank said the vessel began vibrating and it was speculated that the shaking opened the ship’s seams.

The Indiana was built for Watson A. Fox of Buffalo, New York for the Clipper Line, a business that existed for only one year. Frank Perew, who became well known in the lake’s shipping industry, bought a half-interest in the Indiana in 1854 and served as its master for the next two years. He was aboard the Indiana on the day it sank.

The vessel was laden with a cargo of ore loaded at Marquette when it foundered.

The Indiana was unique in other ways. It was built with flared sides, giving it a wide deck that could be loaded with deck cargo. The stern was tapered like the bow making it difficult to tell whether the vessel was coming or going when observed from afar.

The boat also was powered by a steam engine of very early and historic design. After the wreck was found, the engine and propeller were salvaged by the Smithsonian Institute and put on display at the famous museum in 1979.