Steamer Etruria Sunk by a Stone


By James Donahue


Capt. George Mallory, skipper of the new ore carrier Amasa Stone, denied charges that he broke the rules of the lakes following an early morning collision that sank the freighter Etruria off Presque Isle Light.


The 23 crew members of the Etruria claimed that the Stone steamed off into the fog after a broadside collision that sank their coal laden boat on June 18, 1905. They said they barely had time to launch lifeboats and get off the boat before it turned upside down and went down by the stern in 68 fathoms of water.


Capt. John Green, master of the Etruria, also charged that the Stone may not have been traveling through the fog that morning in check, and he did not hear another boat's fog signals prior to the crash.


Mallory denied the charges. He said the story of his alleged desertion was "a deliberate lie. After the collision we swung around and approached the Etruria, intending to offer her assistance. But the crew, taking to the boats, rowed off in the opposite direction," he said.


In those days, boat captains faced fines of up to $1,000 and two years in jail if they filed to stop and pick up survivors following a collision that sank the other vessel.


At the time of the disaster, the 414-foot-long Etruria was considered the largest vessel ever to be sunk on the Great Lakes.


It was upbound that morning with a cargo of soft coal, moving from Toledo to a Lake Superior port. The Stone was steaming from Duluth with a cargo of iron ore, bound for Lake Erie.


When they hit, many of the crew members on the Etruria were asleep in their bunks. Chief Engineer B. B. Buchanan said he was awakened by the collision and thought the steamer had run aground. By the time he reached the deck, the vessel was already listing and starting to settle in the water, stern first.


The boat was gashed open on the starboard side, just abreast of the No. 9 hatch. Capt. John Green and his crew launched the boat's lifeboats and escaped in time to watch the steamer roll over. As it turned upside down, the sailors said the hatch covers began breaking off and the cargo of coal rumbled free, dropping to the bottom of the lake ahead of the ship.


The crew was picked up later that morning by the passing steamer Maritana after the fog lifted.


The Stone was a new boat, having just been launched a few weeks before the accident.


The vessel was not having a good season. On its first trip the Stone went aground at Corsican shoal at the foot of Lake Huron.


The Etruria also was a relatively new boat, having been launched at Bay City in 1902, three years before it was lost.


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