On the windy night of 20 September 1901, the 282 foot long wooden steamer Fedora uneventfully plied southward into the channel between the Wisconsin mainland and Basswood Island, bound for Ashland. Its impending demise was shocking and speedy. A kerosene lamp blew up in the engine room, igniting oil drums and turning the vessel into a giant floating inferno. With the water pumps also located in the fire-consumed engine room, the ship was doomed, the crew in immediate and grave peril. The huge fire brightly lit up the shoreline, giving Capt. Frank Fick his best hope to save his men. Before flames engulfed the pilothouse, Capt. Fick steered the vessel hard to starboard, ramming it onto a sandbar just offshore. As the ship burned down to waterline, the crew and captain safely swam to the beach -- cold and wet, but glad to be alive. When I visited the site in 2007, Lake Superior was a couple of feet low, exposing a good bit of the hull's planking. The chilly water, relatively bereft of wood-decomposing organisms, has kept what remains of this vessel remarkably well preserved after over a century. Let's hope divers and boaters do likewise.
1 NE Red Cliff WI (22 Jul 7), looking E