On This Day in History: The Sinking of the Eber Ward

Although violent weather sank numerous vessels in the Straits of Mackinac, not all shipwrecks occurred on dark and stormy nights. On this date 105 years ago, the steamer Eber Ward sank on a bright, sunny morning just west of Mackinaw City. On April 20, 1909, Eber Ward sailed east through the straits, her holds full of corn loaded in Milwaukee. In the bright morning sunlight, her captain saw a mass of what he assumed to be icy slush. He continued sailing ahead at full speed, confident Eber Ward would pass easily through the slush. Instead, jagged and solid chunks of ice tore a massive hole in the wooden bow. Quickly flooding, Eber Ward sank in 10 minutes. Although her crew abandoned ship, five men were killed when the sinking steamer pulled their lifeboat underwater.

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Image courtesy of Milwaukee Public Library, Wisconsin Marine Historical Society

Divers discovered the wreck of Eber Ward in 1980. She sits upright 140 feet underwater, perched on the edge of an even deeper channel which runs through the center of the Straits of Mackinac. Many artifacts legally recovered from the wreck will be displayed in the new Straits of Mackinac Shipwreck Museum, opening at Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse later this summer.

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