Wreck of ship that sank in 1940 found in Lake Superior

Shipwreck from 1940 found in Lake Superior

The little-known SS Arlington went down during a storm in 1940.

After 80 years in Lake Superior, The Great Lake Shipwreck Historical society and researcher Dan Fountain announced they’ve discovered the Arlington, a merchant ship which sank in 1940, taking its captain with it, during a storm off Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

The 244-foot (74-meter) bulk carrier Arlington was discovered about 650 feet (200 meters) of water some 35 miles (60 kilometers) north of Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula.

The Arlington left Port Arthur, Ontario, on April 30, 1940, fully loaded with wheat and headed to Owen Sound, Ontario, under the command of Captain Frederick “Tatey Bug” Burke, a veteran of the Great Lakes.

But as the Arlington and a larger freighter, the Collingwood, made their way across Lake Superior they encountered dense fog and then a storm after nightfall that battered both ships. The Arlington began to take on water.

The ship’s first mate ordered the Arlington onto a course to hug the Canadian North Shore, which would have provided some cover from wind and waves, but Burke countermanded and ordered his ship back onto a course across the open lake, the discoverers said.

Around 1 a.m. on May 1, 1940, the Arlington began to sink and the ship’s chief engineer sounded the alarm. The crew, “out of fear for their lives, and without orders from Captain Burke,” began to abandon ship, they said in a statement.

All 16 crew members made it safely to the Collingwood except for Burke, who went down with the Arlington.

Reports indicate he was last seen near its pilothouse, waving at the Collingwood, minutes before his ship vanished into the lake.

“It’s part of our history,” Corey Adkins told WDIO, “Now we have a lot of people talking about this wreck and this life, these lives that people, that nobody knew about.”

“There’s another 16 guys that got off that ship – you know, have kids, inspire people – who would’ve known what would have happened if those 16 lives had been taken away that day?”

“It’s exciting to solve just one more of Lake Superior’s many mysteries, finding Arlington so far out in the lake,” Fountain said in a statement. “I hope this final chapter in her story can provide some measure of closure to the family of Captain Burke.”

The Arlington was discovered thanks to Fountain, a resident of Negaunee, Michigan, who has been conducting remote sensing in Lake Superior in search of shipwrecks for about a decade, said Bruce Lynn, executive director of the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society.

Fountain approached the group with “a potential target” near the northern tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula, and the Arlington was discovered last year Lynn 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,” he said in the statement. “Had Dan not reached out to us, we might never have located the Arlington.”