Saturday, September 17, 2005


"Senator" shipwreck protected by depth, cold


By Eric Litke
September 15, 2005

PORT WASHINGTON, Wisconsin -- Until a fuzzy, black blotch showed up on Paul Ehorn's sonar, the 420-foot steamer Senator was the largest undiscovered wreck in Lake Michigan.

Using research he had put together over several years, Ehorn, 60, of Elgin, Ill., located the Senator about 20 miles off Port Washington on June 10.

The Senator, which went down in 1929 with a hull loaded with about 250 brand new automobiles, sits in nearly 500 feet of water, Ehorn said, rising 40 feet from the lake bottom.

"It's hopefully pretty well-preserved," he said, explaining that the decreased oxygen and current at that depth should have kept the ship intact.

The low-resolution image from Ehorn's Klein side-scanning sonar shows the stern of the ship has separated, but reveals little else.

At that depth, Ehorn said, it is foolish to attempt a dive, but a camera can be lowered to better examine the wreck.

"There's a few kooks out there that talk about diving it, but that's like driving a car 500 mph. Could you do it? Well, theoretically, yeah. But what's the chance of killing yourself? Pretty … great," he said.

The Senator sunk on Oct. 31, 1929—Halloween evening—after being rammed by another ship in dense fog.

The steamer, which was en route from Milwaukee to Mackinaw City, Mich., was going too fast for conditions, according to Brendon Baillod, Great Lakes marine historian.

"These ships were probably going close to 15 knots, probably, and they shouldn't have been going over 10," he said.

The Marquette plowed into the port side of the Senator, burying its bow 10 feet into the side of the Senator, about one-quarter of the way through.

The Marquette then reversed and pulled out of the crippled ship, not only leaving, but failing to drop any lifeboats before doing so.

Some sailors jumped onto the Marquette after the collision, but the rest were left to fend for themselves. Eight men died in the icy waters before a fishing tug, which heard the collision from about five miles away, could pick up survivors.

SOURCE - Sheboygan-Press


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