Lake Superior Ship That Sank With Captain Found

The Arlington went down in a storm in 1940
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 12, 2024 6:25 PM CST
Lake Superior Shipwreck Found
This image provided by the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society shows the wreck of the bulk carrier Arlington, a merchant ship loaded with wheat that sank in Lake Superior during a storm on May 1, 1940.   (Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society via AP)

Shipwreck hunters have discovered a merchant ship that sank in Lake Superior in 1940, taking its captain with it, during a storm off Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society and shipwreck researcher Dan Fountain announced Monday the discovery of the 244-foot bulk carrier Arlington in about 650 feet of water some 35 miles north of Michigan's Keweenaw Peninsula. The ship left Port Arthur, Ontario, on April 30, 1940, fully loaded with wheat and headed to Owen Sound, Ontario, under the command of Captain Frederick "Tatey Bug" Burke, a veteran of the Great Lakes.

But as the Arlington and a larger freighter, the Collingwood, made their way across Lake Superior, they encountered dense fog, then a storm after nightfall that battered both ships. The Arlington began to take on water. The first mate ordered it onto a course to hug the Canadian North Shore, which would have provided some cover from wind and waves, but Burke countermanded and ordered a course across the open lake, the discoverers said. Early on May 1, 1940, the Arlington began to sink, and the chief engineer sounded the alarm. The crew, "out of fear for their lives, and without orders from Captain Burke," abandoned ship, they said in a statement.

All made it safely to the Collingwood except Burke, who went down with the Arlington. Reports indicate he was last seen near its pilothouse, waving at the Collingwood, minutes before his ship vanished into the lake. The shipwreck society said "no one will ever know" why Burke acted as he did. "It's exciting to solve just one more of Lake Superior's many mysteries, finding Arlington so far out in the lake," Fountain said in a statement, adding that he hopes the discovery "can provide some measure of closure to the family of Captain Burke." Fountain has been conducting remote sensing in Lake Superior in search of shipwrecks for about a decade.

(More Lake Superior stories.)

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