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New video confirms Lake Superior wreck is long-lost freighter Henry B. Smith

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Detroit Lakes Online
New video confirms Lake Superior wreck is long-lost freighter Henry B. Smith
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

DULUTH, Minn. - New video taken more than 500 feet beneath the surface of Lake Superior confirms that a shipwreck discovered earlier this year is indeed the long-lost freighter Henry B. Smith.


As reported in the Duluth News Tribune last month, a group of shipwreck hunters with Northland ties located the wreck in May about 30 miles north of Marquette, Mich. The location, and video collected on that first trip, left little doubt that the wreck was the Smith, which had vanished with all hands in a storm in November 1913.

But the group wasn’t able to get video footage showing the ship’s name — until a return trip to the wreck site last week.

“We were blessed with gorgeous weather,” while out on the water last Sunday and Monday, said Jerry Eliason of Cloquet. And the camera — despite getting caught on the wreck for a half-hour — captured video of lettering spelling out “Henry B. Smith” on the ship’s stern.

Eliason was joined by Kraig Smith of Rice Lake, Wis., on Monday, when the name came into view; Dan Fountain of Marquette was along during exploration the day before. The group gathered, after editing, about three hours of video footage of the wreck.

The 525-foot Henry B. Smith foundered a century ago in the massive Great Lakes Storm of 1913, after it and its crew of 25 ventured out from the harbor at Marquette during a lull in the bad weather. The storm kicked up again and the freighter vanished, leaving scattered wreckage and just two bodies along the shores of Lake Superior.

Eliason, Smith and Ken Merryman of Minneapolis located the wreck on May 24, using data analyzed by Eliason and his wife, Karen, to pinpoint a very specific search area.

In addition to footage of the ship’s name — the group also caught a glimpse of the name on the Smith’s bow — the return trip revealed more details of how the ship is sitting on the lake bottom.

It’s like a “V,” Eliason said — broken in the middle, with the largely intact bow and stern sections rising up from the lake bed amid a spilled cargo of iron ore.

“The propeller and rudder are high off the bottom,” Eliason said. “It’s like it broke in the middle (on the surface) and both ends v’ed down into the pile of iron ore.”

Getting that video footage was challenging because of a still-standing mast and guide wires on the bow section, which did snag the camera for a while last week before the group was able to work it free.

The group will continue to review the video — and send it to other shipwreck experts — to see what more they can learn about the Henry B. Smith and how it sank.

Eliason said he and Merryman have been invited to give a presentation about the wreck of the Henry B. Smith at the 26th annual Gales of November conference in Duluth. The event, a fundraiser for the Lake Superior Marine Museum Association, is scheduled for Nov. 1-2.

Article written by Andrew Krueger of the Duluth News Tribune

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