Great Lakes Ships and Shipping Industry Posts

The Slice: Duluth’s Shipping Canal turns 150

In 1871 the steam dredge Ishpeming finished cutting a canal through Minnesota Point, opening Duluth’s inner harbor to ship traffic. One hundred and fifty years later, the canal remains a focal point for industry and tourism in the Twin Ports.

In its series The Slice, WDSE-TV presents short “slices of life” that capture the events and experiences that bring people together and speak to what it means to live up north.

The Janus, Ghost Ship of Lake Superior

The MV Sophia F. Janus was built, launched, and christened in 1977. It was among the first of 13 “thousand-footers” to sail the inland seas: 1013 feet long, 113 feet wide, 566 feet hull depth, containing 1,300 tons of oil for its four-story engine. It could carry more than 90,000 tons of cargo, with a crew of 23 souls. The ship was an innovative mixed-use tanker-bulk hauler, with three chemical tank holds and two bulk holds. It had a 250-foot discharge boom for the self-unloading of bulk cargo at a rate of 6,000 tons per hour. The vessel holds numerous cargo records. In the superstitious lore of the sailors, however, because a dock worker was crushed during launch, the Janus was considered cursed. Even the infinite dilution of the Great Lakes could not dissolve the stain of blood.

Communication was lost with the Janus in a storm in 1982, and it appeared to have sunk without a trace after leaving Duluth. No flotsam, oil slick, or fuel spill was discovered in the area of her last known location, which was the middle of Lake Superior.

Postcard from an Outbound Freighter

This undated postcard from Zenith Interstate News Company shows a freighter exiting the Duluth shipping canal into Lake Superior.

Postcard from the Passenger Steamer South American

This undated postcard, published by Zenith Interstate News Company, shows the Steamer South American on Lake Superior. It was built for the Chicago, Duluth & Georgian Bay Transit Company and launched as an overnight passenger ship on Feb. 21, 1914. A fire in 1924 required the upper works of the vessel to be rebuilt, resulting in the addition of a second smokestack, which is shown on the postcard.

Breaking Ice to Bring in Freighters on the 20th of January

This postcard, published by the Hugh C. Leighton Company, was never mailed and has no year marked on it, but the caption on the front would indicate the illustration is based on a photo shot on Jan. 20 of some year in the early 1900s.

Whether the artist drew people standing on the edge of the ice as a creative choice or whether they were really standing there is not known, unless the photo exists somewhere. Either way, file the act of walking out to ice breakers in the “no, don’t do that” category.

PDD Video Lab: On the Great Lakes

In this edition of the PDD Video Lab we’ve taken mid-20th Century Duluth footage from the National Archive and set it to the title track from the 2017 Ingeborg von Agassiz album O Giver of Dreams.

On Board a Great Lakes Freighter

The film above was discovered with no info such as who shot it, or when and where the scenes were captured. It clearly features Duluth at the beginning and end, however, and appears to be circa 1937.

Postcards from U.S. Naval Reserve Training Ship Gopher

The undated postcards here show the USS Gopher at Duluth. The vessel had a 34-year history on the East Coast as the USS Fern before being renamed Gopher on Dec. 27, 1905, when it began duty with the Minnesota Naval Militia in Duluth.

Postcards from the Wreck of the Steamer Crescent City

The steamer Crescent City was driven into rocks on the shore of Lake Superior northeast of Duluth 115 years ago today — Nov. 28, 1905. It was one of numerous wrecks during a storm that was most famous for sinking the Mataafa near the Duluth Ship Canal. Nine of 24 Mataafa crew members perished; everyone on Crescent City survived.

S.S. North West fictitiously entering Duluth Harbor circa 1906

This manipulated photo from the Detroit Publishing Company is filed by the Library of Congress as “Ship canal looking in, Duluth, Minn.,” and is roughly dated 1906. The summary of the item describes the manipulation:

Photo shows a ship with the words “North West. Northern Steamship Co.” The ship appears to be pasted into the canal scene, with hand-drawn smoke and mast — a composite photograph.

Bulk Freighter Maricopa, circa 1900-1910

This Detroit Publishing Company photo of the bulk freighter Maricopa comes with little information. The Library of Congress dates it as “between 1900 and 1910.” There’s no photographer name and no location. It’s even filed as “S.S. Merick [sic] of Duluth,” for some reason.

Steamer Christopher Columbus at Duluth

The Library of Congress captions this image “Steamer Christopher Columbus from Duluth passing industrial buildings,” and dates it “between 1900 and 1915.”

The SS Christopher Columbus was the longest whaleback ship ever built and the only one outfitted to serve as a passenger steamer — the rest were cargo barges. It was built by American Steel Barge Company in Superior and was in service from 1893 to 1933.

Postcard from the S.S. North West

This postcard was mailed 110 years ago today — Aug. 4, 1910 — from A. Nelson in Duluth to Miss Louise Skoug in Two Harbors.

According to the Historic Detroit website, the North West “began its life as one of the finest passenger steamers ever built for service on the Great Lakes — and, after a series of unusual events, ended that life by being torpedoed by the Germans during World War II.”

Presque Isle scrapes stone base of Duluth Ship Canal pier

The 1,000-foot Presque Isle struck the base of the Duluth Ship Canal’s north pier shortly after 7 a.m. today. The video above is by Conner Blaukat. The perspective below was shot by Mike Burbul.

Postcard from the U.S. Coast Guard Woodrush Breaking Ice in Duluth Harbor

It was July 12, 1950 — 70 years ago today — that some dude with the initials H.E.W. sent this postcard from Duluth to Mr. Joe Rigatti of Pittsburgh, Penn.

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