TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. – Explorers have discovered a century-old shipwrecked ore carrier that sank mysteriously during a Lake Superior storm less than two months after it was launched.
All but one of the Cyprus’ 23 crew members died in the Oct. 11, 1907, disaster. A team with the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society found the wreckage last month about 460 feet beneath the surface and planned to announce the discovery today, said Tom Farnquist, the group’s executive director.
The Great Lakes are littered with thousands of shipwrecks. But the Cyprus is among the more puzzling – especially because it foundered on just its second voyage, while hauling iron ore from Superior, Wis., to Buffalo, N.Y.
The 420-foot-long ship is about eight miles north of Deer Park, a village in Michigan’s eastern Upper Peninsula, where lone survivor Charles G. Pitz stumbled ashore after floating aboard a life raft for nearly seven hours. He died in 1961.
Built in Lorain, Ohio, the Cyprus was launched Aug. 17, 1907. It was as “seaworthy a vessel as has ever been turned out by a lake shipyard,” The Marine Review, a Cleveland trade publication, said after the sinking.
The gale in which the ship perished was “so moderate that only the smaller class of vessels sought shelter while the big steamers scarcely noticed it at all,” the Review said.
But Pitz, the second mate, said after the wreck that the Cyprus was being pounded by northwesterly waves and developed a gradually worsening list.
Engines finally stopped and crew members donned life jackets. Most headed to lifeboats, but Pitz and three others – the captain, the first mate and a watchman – gathered near a raft closer to the front.
About 7:45 p.m., the Cyprus capsized and quickly sank.
Pitz and his companions were hurled into the lake. They climbed aboard the raft and by 2 a.m. had drifted within 300 feet of land. But the raft flipped over several times in the churning surf, drowning everyone but Pitz, who washed ashore, cold and exhausted.
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