“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Silver Bay in Lake County, Minnesota — The American Midwest (Upper Plains)

A Modern Shipwreck

A Modern Shipwreck Marker image. Click for full size.
July 26, 2022
1. A Modern Shipwreck Marker
Pellet Island claims its third victim
Fierce winds and forceful waves prove undoing for modern, powerful vessel.

Thanksgiving Day, 1979 started out like any other day for Captain Clyde Trueax and his crew aboard the 600-foot bulk freighter Frontenac. They were crossing Lake Superior on their way to Reserve Mining Company at Silver Bay to pick up a load of taconite pellets—a trip the Frontenac had made many times that season.

Trueax, a veteran mariner with more than 30 years' experience on the Great Lakes, took command at third watch as the Frontenac was approaching the harbor. A northeaster had been blowing all day, but now in the darkness the winds clocked at 25 to 30 miles per hour with 6 to 12 foot seas. Trueax requested an update with the commander of the Armco, a ship that had docked there 90 minutes earlier.

Suddenly, a snow squall surrounded the Frontenac, reducing visibility to a few hundred feet and rendering its radar equipment useless. Two lights—one at the Reserve Mining dock and another at Pellet Island—were out, making navigation in these
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conditions even more challenging. In less than ten minutes, the Frontenac had run aground on an underwater reef on the opposite side of Pellet Island. Fierce winds and forceful waves pummeled the ship while the captain tried desperately to free her. During the next three hours, he signaled the engine room 57 times for forward/reverse maneuvers. The powerful 5,500 horsepower, steam turbine engine turned the thrashing 20-foot diameter propeller to no avail. The Frontenac, rather than freeing herself, only turned around the island and came to rest facing the breakwater. During these maneuvers, her bottom was horribly damaged and she began taking on water.

The next morning, the U.S. Coast Guard pumped water from the cargo holds and checked for oil spills. As a barge was off-loading her bunker oil, the Frontenac simply floated free. Once moved to the dock, crews from Fraser Shipyard worked to reinforce the steel plates on the deck and hull. The Frontenac was escorted to Duluth for further repairs, but the damage was too great. She was declared a total loss and was sold for salvage.

The Frontenac hard aground off Pellet Island directly in front of you.

The pumps on the Frontenac could not keep up with the incoming water. Large pumps brought by the Coast Guard saved her from sinking.

A Modern Shipwreck Marker <i>(right)</i> image. Click for full size.
July 26, 2022
2. A Modern Shipwreck Marker (right)
survey the damage in a cargo hold.

After the cargo hold was pumped dry, a large crack was discovered and temporarily stopped up with cedar shims.

The floor of the cargo hold was pushed upward more than three feet by the rocks.

With a volunteer crew of 11 men, the Frontenac passes through the Duluth ship canal under her own power for the last time. Her sister ship, Pontiac, and a commercial tug were required as escorts before the Coast Guard would allow the journey.

Significant structural damage was discovered in dry dock.

The thick steel hull was crushed like an aluminum can. A shipyard official said, "She should have never left Silver Bay, her back was broken and she could have sank in seconds."

Lighting Lake Superior
Lighthouses—once an integral part of Lake Superior's navigational tools—have been replaced by modern equipment and improved technology. Today, people can tour these historic sites to gain an understanding of the early years of Minnesota's shipping industry.

Nearby at Split Rock Lighthouse, a visitor center features an award-winning film and an exhibit about Lake Superior shipwrecks.

The Two Harbors Light Station is the oldest operating light station in Minnesota. Here visitors can also explore the restored pilot house
Silver Bay Marina marker kiosk, from the east image. Click for full size.
July 26, 2022
3. Silver Bay Marina marker kiosk, from the east
from the ore carrier Frontenac. The former U.S. Coast Guard facility is now owned and operated by the Lake County Historical Society.

This project was funded in part by the Coastal Zone Management Act, by NOAA's Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management, in cooperation with Minnesota's Lake Superior Coastal Program.
Erected by State of Minnesota, Department of Natural Resources.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: Waterways & Vessels. A significant historical date for this entry is November 22, 1979.
Location. 47° 16.377′ N, 91° 16.485′ W. Marker is in Silver Bay, Minnesota, in Lake County. Marker is on Marina Drive, 0.3 miles east of Bayside Park Road, on the left. Located at the Silver Bay Safe Harbor Public Marina off Highway 61. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 99 Beach Drive, Silver Bay MN 55614, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 7 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Historic Shipwrecks (here, next to this marker); Welcome to the Silver Bay Safe Harbor/Marina (here, next to this marker); Taconite Mining (here, next to this marker); Northshore Mining (approx. 1.4 miles away); Lake Superior Shipwrecks (approx. 1.6 miles away); About the City: Silver Bay, Minnesota
Breakwater leading to Pellet Island image. Click for full size.
July 26, 2022
4. Breakwater leading to Pellet Island
(approx. 1.6 miles away); Palisade Head (approx. 4.3 miles away); Geology of the Split Rock Region (approx. 6.6 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Silver Bay.
Credits. This page was last revised on August 9, 2022. It was originally submitted on August 7, 2022. This page has been viewed 163 times since then and 61 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on August 7, 2022.   4. submitted on August 9, 2022.

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Jul. 24, 2024