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Cargo ship that sank in 1940 found at the bottom of Michigan’s Lake Superior

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MICHIGAN : The Arlington, a 244-foot bulk carrier that sank in 1940 with its captain on board, was recently discovered at the bottom of Lake Superior.

The ship was found about 35 miles north of the Keweenaw Peninsula in Michigan, more than 600 feet below the surface, by the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society (GLSHS) and shipwreck researcher Dan Fountain.

The ship was carrying wheat from Port Arthur to Owen Sound in Ontario, Canada, when it encountered a fierce storm on April 30, 1940. The storm damaged both the Arlington and another ship, the Collingwood, that was travelling with it.

The first mate of the Arlington suggested changing course to seek shelter near the Canadian North Shore, but the captain, Frederick “Tatey Bug” Burke, refused and insisted on staying on the original route across the open lake.

The next morning, the chief engineer, Fred Gilbert, warned the crew that the ship was sinking and urged them to abandon it. The crew followed his advice, but the captain did not. He remained on the ship, waving to the Collingwood from the pilot house as he went down with his vessel. His choice to stay behind is still a mystery, according to the historical society.

Arlington shipwreck resurfaces a saga

Gilbert later told the Toronto Daily Star that the ship sank quickly and that they barely had time to launch the lifeboats. He also said that the ship was covered in ice and that his hands were frozen from pushing the lifeboats over.

CNN reported that George Mackery, the son of the first mate, said he was not surprised that Burke stayed on the ship. He described him as a “real sailor type” who would never desert a sinking ship. He said he and the other sailors would miss him.

Fountain contacted the historical society last year with a possible location of the shipwreck. The historical society then used a Marine Sonic Technology side-scan sonar to confirm the presence of a sunken ship. Divers then verified that it was the Arlington.

Bruce Lynn, the executive director of the historical society, said that finding the shipwreck was a rare and exciting event. He said, “These targets don’t always amount to anything…but this time it absolutely was a shipwreck. A wreck with an interesting, and perhaps mysterious story.”

Fountain said that he hoped that finding the Arlington would bring some closure to the family of Burke. He said that it was thrilling to solve one more of the many mysteries of Lake Superior.

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