Ships 2


Ships 3


They Couldn’t Save The Myron

By James Donahue

The winter gale on Lake Superior was threatening to claim the 31-year-old lumber hooker Myron, and there was a gallant effort going on to save both the ship and its crew. But every effort to prevent the disaster failed and both the Myron and its 17-member crew perished off Whitefish Point that November day in 1919. Only the captain, who was blown off the sinking ship while still in the wheelhouse, miraculously survived.

From the day it was launched in 1888, the 186-foot wooden-hulled steamship was born to carry lumber. It was designed to tow up to two lumber laden barges and carry lumber on its decks. The Myron was still faithfully doing her job, with the barge Miztec in tow, steaming from Munising, Michigan, to Buffalo, their decks loaded high with lumber, when the gale struck them on November 22.

The two vessels were only two hours out of port when the storm, packing 60 mile-per-hour winds and a heavy snow, came upon them. Captain Walter Neal knew the old steamer was ripe after years of battling such storms, but he fought the high seas, trying to get to safety on the lee side of Whitefish Point.

As the storm raged, the boats became coated with ice and the seams began to open on the Myron. The pumps could not keep up with the water and the ice build up on the deck changed the boat’s center of gravity so it became unstable in the seas. Captain Neal dropped the Miztec off Vermilion Point hoping this would give him a chance to bring the steamer on to Whitefish Bay. The crew of the barge dropped anchor and rode out the storm.

The steel steamer Adriatic came upon the struggling vessel and pulled alongside, attempting to shield the badly leaking vessel from the brunt of the gale. The lookout at the Vermilion Lifesaving Station spotted the drama and a motor-powered surf boat was launched.

The Myron almost made it. She came within a mile and a half of Whitefish Point but then the gaining water below deck extinguished her fires and she was at the mercy of the seas. The ship fell into a trough then sank in just four minutes. The crew launched the ship’s two lifeboats but the boats became trapped by the raging seas, the lumber floating off the Myron’s deck and the wreckage.

The Adriatic, a much larger ship, was still on the scene. Her crew attempted to break through the logs to rescue the crew but the vessel’s hull began touching bottom and she had to back off. The H. P. McIntosh, with Captain Lawrence, came upon the scene. Lawrence forced his steamer through the wreckage field and got close enough to throw lines to the Myron’s crew but by then they were so numbed by the severe cold they were unable to grasp the lines. In the end, the McIntosh also had to back away or risk destruction on the nearby rocks.

The Vermilion lifesavers also reached the wreck site but were also unable to fight their way through the mass of floating lumber. In the end all 17 sailors froze to death. About eight of them either floated or swam to shore where their frozen bodies were found. The bodies of the others were recovered in the ice the next spring. A tug came upon one of the lifeboats with dead sailors still in it several days later. They were all wearing life jackets.

By an odd twist of fate, Captain Neal was the only survivor. He was still in the ship’s wheelhouse when the Myron sank. The wheelhouse was blown away from the ship as the ship foundered with Neal still inside. He climbed out of a window and was still alive, clinging to the roof, when the steamer W. C. Franz found him twenty hours later.

The exhausted lifesaving crew struggled in the storm until they reached the Whitefish Point dock.