Pictures courtesy of the Mikel Classen Collection of Historical Pictures
This is an early passenger steamer named “City of Traverse.” This view of the ship shows only ne lock and the river rapids can be seen beyond the ship.
Many old historical ship pictures were taken at the Soo Locks. The close-up vantage point for the bulky photo equipment made it a choice spot for ship photography in the early years.
Whalebacks in the Soo Locks with tugs.
Over the years there have been many kinds of ships that have sailed the Great Lakes. All of them served a valued purpose in their day, though some had some uniquely strange looks. Of course many of these at some point would wind up at the bottom of the lakes, casualties of unexpected storms.
This is a couple of schooners going through the Soo Locks.
From Sailing ships to coal fired steamers, a fascination remains of all of these different types of ships. To this day visitors flock to the Soo Locks for a glimpse of the great ships that still sail the lakes.
This early freighter is called the Zenith City. It would sink not long after this picture.
This is not a by-gone era but one that has evolved through the years. The lake ships of all kinds serve as vital a purpose now as they did in the past.
This picture is of an early wood fired side-wheeler. photos of these are few and far between.
While watching the ships of today, it is also fun to think about the ships of the past, smaller and more susceptible, battling the violent elements of the Great Lakes for their very survival. Some succeeded, many didn’t, ending in tragedy and a watery grave. Requiem for sailors of a different time and men with courage beyond most.
Images are from my personal historical photos collection
Whalebacks were used to haul cargo across the Great Lakes.
Whaleback ships were a unique design that was adopted to ship ore across the Great Lakes and particularly Lake Superior. Their shape was designed to lessen the impact of turbulent surf. When fully loaded they looked more like a submarine than a surface ship. They were used mostly as a tow barge, schooners had mostly been used before this.
Whalebacks at the Soo Locks towing each other a common practice in ore shipping.
Whalebacks were fairly common throughout the early 20th century. 44 of them were built between 1887 and 1898. Most of them were built in Duluth, MN or Superior, WI as freighters for the iron range. None of them are left except one that is a museum ship in Superior, WI, the SS Meteor. (here is a link to the Whaleback Museum: https://superiorpublicmuseums.org/ss-meteor/)
Whalebacks taking on ore in Escanaba.
When loaded whalebacks were hard to see and were often run into by ships that couldn’t see them. Their hatches tended to leak and bend during stress which made them a hazard. The Whaleback is the forefather to the modern ore freighter that we commonly see now, like the neanderthal to the modern man.
Whaleback in the Soo Locks. A heavily loaded one can be seen behind it.