Santa Claus Island circa 1875

Where precisely was Santa Claus Island and when did it collapse into Lake Superior? Well, although this photo was shot by a Duluth photographer, all signs point to the rock formation having stood on the shore of Isle Royale. The internet doesn’t easily offer answers on when it collapsed or if it still stands.

An illustration of the stack named for Father Christmas appeared in the Nov. 21, 1885 issue of Harper’s Weekly.

The magazine caption reads:

1. Port Arthur. 2. The Wreck. 3. From the Top of Thunder Cape. 4. Thunder Cape from the Lake. 5. Santa Claus Island.

It seems the items in the caption are misidentified, because clearly Santa Claus Island is image #3 and not image #5.

On page 763, a description of the Algoma wreck notes:

Isle Royal, where the wreck occurred, stretches its forbidding form across the mouth of Thunder Bay, about forty miles distant from Port Arthur. It is a rocky and desolate island, uninhabited at the present day except by a few fishermen. Scattered about its barren length are a few old and long since deserted copper mines, which were doubtless at one time worked extensively by the Indians. Within sight of Isle Royal on a clear day rises the towering figure of Thunder Cape, the highest point on the lake. Nature has dealt with the north shore of Lake Superior very much after the manner of her treatment of the rugged coast of Maine, throwing up great battlements of trap-rock in many weird and fantastic shapes. It is here that Santa Claus Island rises up out of the deep water like a great gray ghost; and not far distant is a rocky formation known as “The Chapel,” which is composed of four mighty columns upon which rests a rocky roof.

Photographers William Caswell and William Henry Davy ran a studio in Duluth circa 1870-75 and were responsible for many of the stereographs circulated during the era. The full stereograph of Santa Claus Island is below.

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