The Mankato Free Press
---- — DULUTH — The group that found a sunken freighter off the shore of Marquette, Mich., this spring has found a second one in Lake Superior that sank more than 60 years ago.
Searchers confirmed the location of the Scotiadoc in more than 850 feet of water last month near Thunder Bay, Ontario, possibly making it the deepest shipwreck ever found in the Great Lakes, the Duluth News Tribune reported.
Jerry Eliason, of Cloquet, Minn., is part of the group that has found many lost ships, including the long-sought-after wreck of the Henry B. Smith near Michigan in May.
"Finding the Henry B. Smith was the entree; the Scotiadoc was the dessert," Eliason said.
The 424-foot Scotiadoc sank after colliding with the 451-foot freighter Burlington in 1953, killing one person.
The Scotiadoc departed Port Arthur, Ontario — part of what's now Thunder Bay — with a crew of 29 and nearly 260,000 bushels of wheat on June 20, 1953. About two hours into the voyage, the Scotiadoc and the Burlington were in the vicinity of Trowbridge Island and each ship, the court ruled, made crucial errors as they navigated through thick fog and driving rain.
The Burlington plowed into the starboard side of the Scotiadoc at an angle near the stern, gashing a hole in the smaller vessel as its bow scraped along the side.
Most of the Scotiadoc crew went to the port-side lifeboat, which was launched successfully. But about a half-dozen crew members went to the starboard-side lifeboat.
In heavy seas and with several crew members in the lifeboat, the stern slipped from the deck over the side of the sinking ship, dropping five people about 15 feet into the frigid lake. Four of them grabbed onto ropes and were hauled out of the water.
Wallace McDermid, 39, of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, may have had some physical limitations and apparently did get ahold of the raft. He disappeared into the fog and was not seen again.
The ship rests upright — and largely intact near Trowbridge Island — about 20 miles southeast of Thunder Bay, with the bow at a depth of 850 feet and the stern at 870 feet.
Eliason said it appears the previous record-holder for deepest wreck found in the Great Lakes is the Isaac Jenkins, discovered in Lake Ontario in about 750 feet of water.
The Scotiadoc first came to the group's attention as it searched for the Theano, another shipwreck in the area, Eliason said. Court testimony and other accounts helped the searchers narrow a point from which to start looking.
Beginning in the early 2000s, the group — which also has included Ken Merryman of Minneapolis, Kraig Smith of Rice Lake, Wis., and Randy Beebe of Duluth through the years — made periodic trips to search for the Scotiadoc, eventually acquiring a good target.
With the Henry B. Smith wreck the group found earlier this year, Eliason and his wife, Karen, had acquired a lot of raw data from government archives that also helped. They also ran a sonar unit in a grid pattern over a defined search area.
But it was only in early September that the many factors involved in the search — time, correct gear, permits from Canadian authorities and above all favorable weather — came together to allow for the group's camera to get the video footage needed to confirm the wreck's identity: the name "Scotiadoc" spelled out along the side.
The confirmation came late Sept. 7, with Eliason, Merryman and Robert Nelson of Eau Claire, Wis., aboard Merryman's boat to see the footage.