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The Huronic

Photo: Wikimedia Commons, A.E. Young

By Rev. C.J. Barry Kentner

In 1928 The Huronic beached on Lucille Island, southeast of Lake Superior’s Pigeon Point. Late in the 1930s, her cabins were removed from the upper deck, and passenger service ended. She was scrapped in Hamilton, Ontario in 1950.

Last week I detailed the fate of the Noronic and the Hamonic; two of the Three Sisters of the Great Lakes. This week it is the fate of the Huronic.

I left this one to the last because during its career it was possibly the very last vessel to see the “Flying Dutchman of the Lakes” the Bannockburn.

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The Huronic was launched in May of 1902, and on the night of November 21st, 1902, She passed the Bannockburn shortly before it sank.

Wikipedia tells us that the final voyage of the Bannockburn began at the Canadian Lakehead under Captain George R. Wood. She was downbound carrying 85,000 bushels of wheat, leaving the city of Fort William on November 20 and headed for Georgian Bay. She suffered a slight grounding but no apparent damage on her way out to the open lake, and her departure was delayed one day. She recommenced her journey on the 21st. Sometime that day, Captain James McMaugh of the upbound Algonquin, another lake freighter, reported viewing her through binoculars. He was well-acquainted with her profile and he stated that he viewed her “several times” over the course of a few minutes to note her progress, which was very nearly on course. At a certain moment, however, he attempted to spot her and was surprised that he was unable to do so. He blamed this sudden disappearance on the somewhat foggy weather and dismissed it.

According to WikiVividly, a strong winter storm raked Lake Superior that night. At 11:00 pm the Nightwatch pilothouse crew of the passenger steamer Huronic, also upbound on the lake, reported seeing lights on a ship they passed in the storm which they believed were in the pattern of those of the Bannockburn. However, no signals of distress were observed, and the two ships passed each other without incident.

The Bannockburn was reported overdue the following morning at the Soo Locks, but given the weather the previous night, this was not considered unusual. When she still did not report several days later, however, the fear that she had been lost began to grow.

On November 25 the steamer John D. Rockefeller passed through a field of floating debris which might have been that of the Bannockburn, though at this time the Bannockburn had not yet been reported lost and the crew of the Rockefeller did not know what might have caused the debris field. By November 30, the ship and crew were officially given up as “lost”.

Eventually, the conclusion was that the Bannockburn had stranded on Caribou Island. This island is surrounded by a dangerous reef, and its lighthouse had been intentionally turned off on November 15th. If the captain of the Bannockburn had been hoping to spot its warning light in the darkness of the storm on the 21st, the only evidence he would have had of his closing proximity would have been the shock of the hull striking the reef itself. On Friday, December 12, the Captain of the Grand Marais Lifesaving Station found a cork life preserver from the Bannockburn washed up on the beach. This item is the only known wreckage from the ship ever to have been recovered.

So much for the end of the Bannockburn. As for the Huronic, During the Great Lakes Storm of 1913, she ran aground on Whitefish Point, Michigan. That storm was called the “White Hurricane”. Its hurricane-force winds blew from November 7th. to the 10th, and was likely similar to the storm that took the Edmund Fitzgerald.

The Huronic continued to sale until 1928 when she again grounded: beached on Lucille Island, Southeast of Lake Superiors Pigeon Point. Once again she was floated, but in the late 1930s, her cabins were removed from the upper deck, and passenger service ended. She was scrapped in Hamilton, Ontario in 1950.

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Barry was born in Toronto, Ontario in 1935 and schooled to Grade 10, but continued educational pursuits until age 65 when he graduated from Open Word Bible College. He started working for Spitzer and Mills advertising in 1952, then moved to the Broadcast arena where for 62 years he was News Director and Talk Show Host at several Canadian Radio Stations. He was one of 5 consultants who managed to lobby for Christian Radio in Canada, and in the last five years before retirement, he was News Director of Canadian Altar.Net News, a network of 25 Christian Radio Stations across Canada from Charlottetown PEI to Campbell River BC.
Barry Kentner is a semi-retired pastor.

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