May 11, 1953: The wreck of the Henry Steinbrenner

On this day on Lake Superior in 1953 the freighter Henry Steinbrenner foundered fifteen miles south of the Isle Royale Light Station. The Steinbrenner—named for the father of legendary New York Yankee owner George M. Steinbrenner, was a 427-foot freighter first launched in 1901. She was on her way to the steel mills along Lake Erie after loading about 7,000 tons of iron ore in Superior on May 10. The Steinbrenner encountered gale-force winds in the afternoon. Her captain, Albert Stiglin, secured the deck but did not order his crew to place tarps over its telescoping hatch openings, which allowed some water to seep into the cargo holds. That evening one of the hatches gave way, and water poured in. About the same time the storm intensified, forcing open doors and vents. Stiglin and his crew tried to keep the Steinbrenner afloat throughout the night, but at 7:30 a.m. they were forced to abandon ship. Several men were lost getting into the lifeboats, and the ore boat quickly disappeared beneath the waves. Alerted by an S.O.S., the steamers D. M. Clemson, William E. Corey, Hochelaga, D.G. Kerr, Wilfred Sykes, and Joseph H. Thompson searched for survivors. They picked up 16 men, but 17 drowned. Some accused the captain and crew of negligence for not covering the hatches with tarps, but others said that with a storm of that size, the tarps would likely have failed anyway. After the Steinbrenner sank, Great Lakes vessel operators refitted their older vessels with watertight hatch covers.

The Henry Steinbrenner. (Image: Great Lakes Vessel Index)