SS Arlington discovered in Lake Superior

What's happening: The SS Arlington, a 244-foot bulk carrier that sunk in 1940, was found 35 miles north of the Keweenaw Peninsula, according to the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society (GLSHS). The wreck was found through a combination of diligent local historians analyzing remote sensor data identifying anomalies and using remotely operated vehicle (ROV) dives to confirm the shipwreck. The Arlington is the latest shipwreck to be found in Lake Superior and the GLSHS credits Negaunee resident Dan Fountain for the data analysis leading to the discovery.

Technology on the lake: Using the research vessel David Boyd in 2023, the GLSHS was able to use side-scan sonar to better detect the anomaly that was later confirmed as the Arlington. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), side-scan sonar uses multiple physical sensors to create acoustic pulses that map the sea or lake floor or detect other objects. Given the region’s proximity to some of the world’s largest bodies of fresh water, the cultural significance of shipping over the Great Lakes and the commitment to technological research at local universities, the Upper Peninsula often has a number of amateur and part-time data researchers like Fountain that work on discovering shipwrecks and showcase how this technology can be used in real-life application.

The final voyage of the Arlington: On April 30th, 1940, the Arlington departed Port Arthur, Ontario, laden with wheat bound for Owen Sound, Ontario. Commanded by Captain Frederick “Tatey Bug” Burke, the ship encountered dense fog upon Lake Superior alongside the Collingwood, a larger freighter. The weather turned worse at nightfall, pummeling both vessels. Despite the Arlington taking on water, Captain Burke opted to maintain the original course across the open lake, contrary to the first mate's suggestion to hug the Canadian North Shore for shelter. At approximately 4:30 a.m. on May 1, Chief Engineer Fred Gilbert sounded the alarm as the Arlington began to sink. Fortunately, all crew members except Burke successfully reached the safety of the Collingwood.  

What they're saying: “One of the most important aspects of everything we do as an organization involves the concept of teamwork. This goes for our operations at Whitefish Point, as well as on the water aboard the David Boyd. We are lucky to have so many dedicated shipwreck historians and researchers as friends of GLSHS,” said Bruce Lynn, GLSHS executive director. “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. Had Dan not reached out to us, we might never have located the Arlington…and we certainly wouldn’t know as much about her story as we do today.”

What's next: More data is always needed to be reviewed as various crevices and valleys hide potential spots for shipwrecks across the Great Lakes. Further information about the shipwreck will be installed at the GLSHS museum in Paradise and administrative building in Sault Ste Marie.
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