Some of the worst storms on the Great Lakes in recorded history have taken place in November. These storms have proven deadly to late season shipping. Perhaps the best known example of this is the sinking of the ore freighter S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald in November 1975. But there have been many others, including the loss of the S.S Daniel J. Morrell on Lake Huron in November 1966.
At 11:00 P.M on Saturday November 26, 1966, the 603 foot long ore freighter S.S. Daniel J. Morrell departed the Bethlehem Steel plant in Lackawanna, New York, and headed out into Lake Erie. The trip into Lackawanna was supposed to be the last one of the season, but another one of Bethlehem Steel's ships had broken down in Taconite Harbor, Minnesota. The Daniel J. Morrell, which was also owned by Bethlehem Steel, would have to make one more run and go to Minnesota to get that load of iron ore and bring it back to Lackawanna.
The SS Daniel J. Morrell was a 603-foot (184 m) Great Lakes freighter that broke up in a strong storm on Lake Huron on 29 November 1966, taking with it 28 of its 29 crewmen. The freighter was used to carry bulk cargos such as iron ore but was running with only ballast when the 60-year-old ship sank.
Laboring in heavy seas, the "Morrell" began to suddenly crack in half at about two in the morning of November 29, 1966. As the bow and stern sections slowly separated, several men boarded the forward life raft, including 26 year old Watchman Dennis Hall. As the bow sank, to the amazement of the men on the raft, the stern kept going under it's own power with lights blazing. When the sections were finally found, the stern was found to have moved approximately five miles and stayed afloat for 90 minutes on its own, a concept I still find difficult to fathom. After 38 hours in the raft and suffering from severe frostbite, Dennis Hale was rescued, and was eventually found to be the sole survivor of the sinking.
Forgive my slight morbidity as I do not wish to make a joke out of the loss of these brave sailors, but I cannot help but be amused at thinking of the Daniel J. Morrell as "The Ship That Rammed Itself".
investigation showed that this ship, and all the others built before
1918 had brittle steel ribs. This ship literally cracked in two because
of the stress of riding over waves. Other old ships had cracked
steel ribbing as well. The USCG condemned approximately one
out of every six cargo ships operating on the Great Lakes.
I miss the the good days we had at SSW. I learned a lot there. Cheers, Mike
I try to research all my subjects prior to doing the final artwork.
I can relate to most of the environments of my artwork. My dad was a WW 2 pilot, who taught me to fly and sail. I had the privilege of meeting his pilot friends of WW 2. Great factual stories about them flying over Europe and battles of the Pacific.
My love for the Great Lakes was when I crewed on several Mackinaw sailboat races.
My love of submarines is based on my work at General Dynamics Electric Boat.
It's all good.
Still these types of events do strain credibility because they are so outside our normal sphere of experience. During my years in the Marines and the brief time I spent at sea I saw a few strange things though nothing like this.
All that being said I want to thank your for this excellent work of art and history which you have shared. I'd also like to once again state my great appreciation for the respect you have shown for both those in uniform serving their country and the brave men who stand watch at sea to keep our society fed.
Well done and Semper Fidelis.
The "Morrell" was built in 1906 and originally powered by a 1,875 ihp triple expansion steam engine. In 1956 the ship was retrofitted with a new 3,200 ihp three cylinder Uniflow steam engine. I am amazed that the engine room and boilers stayed intact to continue to power the stern another five miles. This tell me this compartment was explosion proof with a heavy bulkhead and heavy plate athwartship.
The U.S. Coast Guard's investigation report concluded brittle steel. Also it cracked at the 11th cargo hole amidship. Further inspection of this ship's class showed cracking in this area of other ships and were fixed.
Great Lakes storms can literally lift ships off the surface creating a "trough" under the ship. This occurrence is called "hogging" whereas the bow and stern are lifted up by the powerful wind and high crested waves, thus creating a downward center center force of the ship that causes it to crack in the center section of the ship. The 11th cargo hole is in the center section of the "Morrell". This "Northwester" was generating storm gales of 70 - 80 mph winds and 30 to 40 ft waves.
The Great Lakes is a beautiful area but some of the most dangerous storms on record in the world.
These bulk freighters that traversed these seas are what help build the USA steel industry from the early 1900's to the1980's. They hauled iron ore, from Minnesota to Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Toledo, Eastern Pennsylvania. Today it still continues with iron ore, limestone, coal, wheat, corn, etc......