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September 13, 1967: Great Lakes Steamer North American sinks—northeast of Nantucket?

On this day in 1967, the steamer North American suddenly sank about twenty-nine miles northeast of Nantucket Island off the coast of Massachusetts. The North American and her sister ship, the South American were built in Ecorse, Michigan, in 1913 and 1914 for the Chicago, Duluth & Georgian Bay Transit Company of Detroit. Both vessels were regular visitor to Duluth and Superior. The North American had a history of running aground as she sailed the Great Lakes. When she sunk in 1967 she was under tow of the tugs America and Michael McAllister for Piney Point, Maryland, for use as a training vessel. She had just been purchased by Harold D. Caldwell of the Seafarers’ International Union, who had traded five thousand acres of Tennessee woodland for the vessel. The union also purchased the South American that same year. She steamed to Newport News, Virginia, where her engines were removed and the steamer was converted into a dormitory for the Lundberg School of Seamanship and served as such until 1974. After many failed attempts to return the South American to the Great Lakes as a museum or restaurant, she was scrapped in 1992. Read more about other historic Great Lakes passenger ships here and here.

A lithographic postcard ca. 1916 showing the North American navigating the Duluth Ship Canal. (Image: Zenith City Press)