Steam Barge Cormoraut Burned And Sank

By James Donahue

The Cormoraut was an aging lumber hooker after 34 long years on the Great Lakes when it caught fire and burned to its destruction off the Wisconsin coast on Oct. 30, 1907.

The vessel was steaming on Lake Superior with a load of saw logs for the Edward Heinze Lumber Company when a fire broke out and quickly got out of control. The crew of five men and three women escaped in the ship’s life boat and then watched as the old wooden hulled boat burned to the waterline and sank off Basswood Island, part of the Apostle Island chain.

The wreck was mentioned in a single paragraph in the Stevens Point Daily Journal that week. Consequently, the historical record of the loss of this vessel merely states that it “burned without explanation.”

The wreck went down in shallow water so salvagers were able to raise it, remove the engine and other machinery, and then sink the hull again in deep water off Red Cliff, Wisconsin.

The 218-foot-long steam barge was launched at Cleveland in 1873. In December that year it suffered extensive damage after stranding on Fox Point, Wisconsin. It was pulled back into deep water after 5,000 barrels of flour were jettisoned into the lake, a common practice for lightening grounded boats in those days.

The Cormoraut went through extensive rebuilding that winter before going back on the lakes in 1873.

The record shows that the vessel stranded a second time on Chickenolee Reef, Pelee Island, on Lake Erie, on Sept. 7, 1889. The crew steered into the reef while blinded by smoke from a burning grass fire in a nearby marsh.

Great And Lost Ships Of The World