The Wreck of the Pere Marquette 18
September 17, 2020 9:37 AM   Subscribe

Just over 110 years ago, on September 9, 1910, the Pere Marquette 18, a car ferry out of Ludington, MI, sank about 20 miles east of Sheboygan, WI, with 29 people on board; no one really knew why, and no one really knew where--until now.

Footage of the wreck, which was discovered by Jerry Eliason and Ken Merryman, part of the crew that found the Henry B. Smith in Lake Superior in 2013. An earlier article on the discovery of the wooden steamship L.R. Doty estimates that there are about 500 "dive-worthy" wrecks in Lake Michigan alone.
posted by Halloween Jack (9 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Railroad car
posted by postel's law at 9:56 AM on September 17, 2020 [9 favorites]

I pickup up a pre-Edmund Fitgerald edition of William Ratigan's Great Lakes Shipwrecks and Survivals over the summer and it made for absolutely first-rate hammock reading. Every page drives home the unique dangers of sailing the Great Lakes, which, for someone whose only real big-water exposure has been along the east coast of the US, was utterly fascinating. All the perils of the ocean, and then some.

From the second link:
The duo went back the next day with a camera and discovered the Pere Marquette 18′s bow rising 70 to 100 feet off the bottom on a steep incline.
That is incredible.
posted by Caxton1476 at 9:57 AM on September 17, 2020 [6 favorites]

Cripes, radio technology was very crude then. Send-only spark transmitter, possibly with an alternator as an oscillator. Splatted noise all over the RF spectrum. I don't think you can even demo transmitters like this any more, as they interfere with every other band.
posted by scruss at 10:33 AM on September 17, 2020 [3 favorites]

That's really wild - we put our Westfalia on that crossing from Sheboygan to Luddington maybe 25 years ago, I was kinda amazed it was still a full overnighter on a ship-sized ferry. It was still a tossing, nervous ride on a stormy night.
posted by thecincinnatikid at 11:26 AM on September 17, 2020 [3 favorites]

I don't think you can even demo transmitters like this any more

You haven't been able to transmit with one since 1924 but you can hook one up to a dummy load for demos. Probably still causes local interference, though.
posted by tommasz at 3:04 PM on September 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

Wiki has some info on the sinking of the PM18.

In 1907 the PMR was carrying 800 passengers (on land) when 31 died and 101 were injured ... 'Michigan's worst rail disaster'. Took a lot of (some kind of) courage back then to ride on the big lakes.... There are still train ferries in use around the world. One can *only imagine* the scope of the carnage.
posted by Twang at 5:15 PM on September 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

I have taken a couple of different car ferries across Lake Michigan, one along nearly the same route: The SS Badger (link). The Badger is an old rail car ferry too, and they've poured asphalt on the lower deck up to the level of the old rails. Now it ferries semi trucks (it is officially part of US Route 10), cars, people, motorcycles, and pets. The pets ride in a cage on the lower deck, with the vehicles.

The last time I took the trip, I had time to kill in Manitowoc, WI. There's a shipwreck museum there, which I highly recommend. So before I got on the ferry, I spent an hour reading about wrecks of old ferries, including this one. It made for a more interesting trip than I would have had otherwise!

The other ferry that does regular service all the way across the lake is the Lake Express (link). It's a little faster, and quite a bit smaller. The first time I took that boat was on very rough waters and I swear it pitched 45 degrees back and forth the entire way. The cabin smelled so awful -- many sick bags were full that day -- that I spent the entire trip outside in the rain and wind. Even in fair weather, the wind above deck is so strong that it's just not pleasant. The Badger is a much larger ship than the Lake Express, and therefore much more sedate. It would be my recommendation if anybody's looking to take the trip.
posted by dbx at 6:13 PM on September 17, 2020 [4 favorites]

I have taken the Badger twice and found it to be very enjoyable. The crossing is about 4 hours (not including loading/unloading) so it makes a really nice excursion. When I went, the weather was so nice it was easy to spend the entire time lounging on the deck but they also had a lot of stuff to do inside such as: musicians and bingo (with prizes) in the lounge, play room for littles, video game room with several consoles and pre-loaded games, and a movie lounge — all included in the ticket cost. They also have private rooms, a cafeteria, bar, and gift shop if you want to give them more of your money.

From where I live in Iowa, using the Badger probably doesn’t save me any time and costs more than driving around the lake but avoiding I-80 through Chicago makes it totally worth the extra money.
posted by Big Al 8000 at 8:06 AM on September 18, 2020 [2 favorites]

I took the ferry from Luddington to Milwaukee when I was 16. I was hitchhiking to college. Met an older boy and had one of the most memorable 'adult' encounters of my life. Ferries for the win!
posted by Goofyy at 1:31 PM on September 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

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