Ghost Ship of Lake Superior
Sometimes when the gales of November are blowing and visibility is
limited, sailors battling to guide their boats safely across the open waters of Superior claim they have seen the ghostly
image of an ancient steamboat.
They say the steamer Bannockburn still rides the waves of Superior; the boat and its
crew of 20 lost sailors, forever trying to find a safe harbor.
The Bannockburn, say the stories, has been making regular
appearances for nearly a century after sailing off into oblivion on Nov. 21, 1902. Her supernatural visits have gained the
vessel the nickname "Flying Dutchman of the Great Lakes."
The stories began after Capt. James McNaugh, master of the steamer Algonquin, reportedly told friends
that his ship had the Bannockburn in sight when it vanished before his eyes.
"McNaugh turned his head away from the
Bannockburn for a moment. When he looked again, the Bannockburn was gone," wrote lakes historian Frederick Stonehouse in his
book "The Great Wrecks of the Great Lake."
The story of the Bannockburn sounds hauntingly similar to Superior's most
famous shipwreck, the Edmund Fitzgerald, which sank with all hands during a gale on Nov. 10, 1975.
In the Fitzgerald
tragedy, Capt. Jesse Cooper, master of a nearby freighter Arthur M. Anderson, not only had the Fitzgerald in sight, but he
had been talking to the Fitzgerald's master, Capt. Ernest "Mac" McSorley only moments before that vessel disappeared.
said the "Fitz" was cloaked for a few minutes by a heavy snow squall. When the snow ended, he said the Fitzgerald was no longer
in sight. Radio calls were unanswered. The boat's image on the radar screen also disappeared.
"The center of the scope
was just a white blob," Cooper said.
Like the Bannockburn, the Fitzgerald was battling stormy seas and snow in the
area of Caribou Island, which lies along the route the boat took from Port Arthur, Ont., to Sault Ste. Marie.
discovery of a dangerous rock formation, sometimes called Caribou Shoal, has helped marine historians piece together possible
explanations for the strange disappearances of both the Fitzgerald and the Bannockburn.
Some say the Fitzgerald "bottomed
out" when it came down on the shoal. The ship put a hole in its bottom and sank out from under the crew before the men realized
their boat was fatally damaged.
The Bannockburn may have shared the same fate.
The steamer was carrying grain
from Fort William to Kingston.