U. S. Lightship 98, The
DESCRIPTION: "They may boast of their dreadnaughts and cruisers likewise... But there is another whose fame I'll relate, It's Uncle Sam's little watchdog, the L. V. 98." She has a red hull, a small, efficient crew. It's a lonely job. We should take off our hats to her
AUTHOR: probably Frank McCauley
EARLIEST DATE: before 1952 (Walton collection)
KEYWORDS: ship nonballad
November 6-13, 1913 - The Great Storm on the Lakes
FOUND IN: US(MW)
REFERENCES (1 citation):
Walton/Grimm/Murdock, pp. 185-186, "The U. S. Lightship 98" (1 text)
NOTES [485 words]: This song does not tell the eventual fate of the Lightship 98, but if the vessel is remembered at all, it is as one of the vessels which sank in the "Great Storm of 1913." The Lightship 98, stationed near the foot of Lake Huron, foundered on the night on November 9-10; all of her six crewmen were lost.
Ratigan, p 125, says "It is generally agreed that Lake Huron's 1913 storm was the greatest ever to strike the Lakes. Beyond all argument it must be called the worst in loss of life and loss of shipping. No other Lake storm in modern history even begins to compare with its toll of 235 lives and forty shipwrecks." On page 135, he quotes a monument set up at Port Sanilac, Michigan: "The grim toll was 235 seamen drowned, ten ships sunk, and more than twenty others driven ashore. Here on Lake Huron all 178 crewmen on the eight ships claimed by its waters were lost. For sixteen terrible hours gales of cyclonic fury made men and his machines helpless."
Thompson, p. 250, tells of the first storm flags being raised on Friday, November 7, "when the storm was still centered over Minnesota. It wasn't until late Sunday morning... that the worst of the storm hit the lakes." He observes that, because there was no flag for gale-force winds, many captains ignored the flags. Especially since the storm did not grow severe until two days after the flags went up. Thompson, p. 252, implies that this came about when a second low pressure system (this one from the south) collided with the pressure system which had formed over Lake Superior and headed east.
"Most of the twenty-four ships that sank or were seriously damaged on Lake Huron during the storm were sneaking along the west shore of the lake on Sunday when the approach of the second storm caused winds to veer unexpectedly to the northeast and leave them in dangerously exposed positions."
Even the first storm was fairly severe. Wolff, p. 148, says that "Head-of-the-Lakes residents were enjoying lovely Indian Summer weather on Thursday, November 6, with the mercury at 58 degrees F... Storm warnings were raised at Duluth at 10:00 a.m., November 7. The weathermen were correct. A 60 mph gale struck Duluth around 6 p.m., raging for several hours before diminishing to lesser blasts the next day. A sharp temperature drop saw the thermometer descending to 20 degrees above zero accompanied by strong winds and local snows." But, because the wind blew mostly down the lake, losses on Lake Superior were lighter than those on Lake Huron.
In all this, little wonder that none of the books specifically mention the Lightship 98.Thompson, p. 252, does mention the Lightship 82, which was based at Buffalo and sank with six sailors. There is even a photo of the Lightship 82 being salvaged; presumably the Lightship 98 was fairly similar.
Amazingly for such a major event, there seem to be few songs about ships lost in the 1913 storm. - RBW
Last updated in version 2.5
- Ratigan: William Ratigan, Great Lakes Shipwrecks and Survivals, revised edition, Eerdmans, 1977
- Thompson: Mark L. Thompson, Graveyards of the Lakes, Wayne State University Press, 2000
- Wolff: Julius F. Wolff Jr., Lake Superior Shipwrecks,Lake Superior Port Cities Inc., Duluth, 1990
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