On July 26th, a significant artifact from an Isle Royale shipwreck was returned to the park – the helm of the Algoma, a passenger liner that sank off the southeast shore of Isle Royale on the night of November 7, 1885, while navigating through a snowstorm and high winds typical of the infamous gales of November on Lake Superior.
The accident resulted in the loss of 46 lives, the greatest loss of life of any shipwreck on Lake Superior, even to this day. There were just 16 survivors.
The Algoma’s helm will be prominently displayed at the Rock Harbor Lighthouse Museum at Isle Royale National Park. The ten shipwrecks of Isle Royale present an unequalled diving opportunity with the cold clear waters of Lake Superior preserving items from leather shoes to heavy equipment.
The artifact was returned by a former NPS employee who visited Isle Royale and returned a number of shipwreck artifacts he collected from park waters over the many years he visited and worked at the park. He began scuba diving the wrecks in the late 1950s before being employed by the NPS and before much was known about the significance of the wrecks. He worked at Isle Royale from 1969 to 1972 and was one of the first NPS divers to dive many of the shipwrecks that populate the submerged lands of Isle Royale. Park staff are working with him to locate and coordinate the return of other artifacts from this early era of diving.