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.