Thursday, November 7, 2013

Winds of November

November is an interesting month around the Great Lakes.  Good for bird-watching at certain points during appropriate winds and many ships have gone down in storms on the lakes.
We certainly have had a lot of strong winds this year.  Sounds windy again for the weekend.  Which direction remains to be seen as weather forecasts continually change!  These forecasts make me dizzy!

Regarding lost ships, we know of more recent ones including the Carl D. Bradley (1958), Daniel J. Morrell (1966) and Edmund Fitzgerald (1975).

Cover of renowned artist James Clary's recent book

This November marks the 100th anniversary of the Storm of 1913 where one of the greatest loss of life and ships occurred. It was always thought that one massive storm was responsible, but years ago meteorologist Mal Sillars of Detroit showed that two low pressure systems were responsible.
One storm went through, but a following lull caused sailors to think that it it was clear sailing.  The second, of hurricane strength starting on November 9, came on very quickly.  At Erie Pennsylvania, one of the lowest ever barometric pressures  (28.61 inches) was recorded.  (Apparently that was not matched until decades later somewhere down in the tropics. But last year during hurricane Sandy, a similar record low was also recorded but I do not have the actual figure on hand).
The storm took the lives of 235 sailors.  12 major vessels were lost, mostly in Lake Huron. Six vessels were destroyed and twenty seriously damaged.
Sustained winds of 62 mph lasted more than nine hours and gusts were recorded up to 79 mph.  The very sudden drop in temperature caused ice to form on helpless vessels out on the lake and likely contributed to their demise.
Rough Seas aboard Carl D. Bradley

Most of the vessels have been found by divers, but some still remain a mystery.  Just in the last year, the H. B. Smith was found in Lake Superior.  It was a 545' vessel only seven years old at the time of loss.
The Charles S. Price, new earlier in the year was the famous ship that turned turtle in Lake Huron.  It was a mystery until divers determined its name.
It was an intense storm that hit all communities.  The Regina, which sank in Lake Huron with all hands made a brief stop at Sombra to pick up some hay.  It was her last port of call.
At Sombra, there is a story that the old cheese factory, built on stilts, was in danger of collapsing after the storm.  This was actually the Thistle Rubber Type Works which my Great Grandfather operated.  He had died earlier that year, but my Great Grandmother successfully took over the business. She decided to have the building moved inland during the winter and was rolled on logs to a place behind her house.  It actually moved once again in later years when the highway was moved back from the shoreline.  The building, probably well over 120 years old, still exists today!

Note old Cheese Factory on pilings.  Main road was along the shoreline in the old days:

Poor photo showing moving process:

A number of ceremonies have been scheduled around the lakes to remember the 1913 event.
A familiar duck made an appearance yesterday at Port Lambton:
Some loons were on the river, and many gulls on the move.


  1. Hi Blake,

    I stumbled across your blog because you mentioned that your great-grandfather and great-grandmother ran the Thistle Rubber Type Works in Sombra about a century ago. I've been trying to find information about the history of this company. Can you please tell me your great-grandfather's name?

    Best, Ted

    1. Hi Ted,
      His name was John Gordon Dalgety. He did quite a bit of traveling earlier in life with the business including some in Chicago.

    2. Actually I think he went more by the Gordon name.