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Ghost Ships, Gales and Forgotten Tales: True Adventures on the Great Lakes

1 rating: 3.0
A book by Wes Oleszewski

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Author: Wes Oleszewski
Genre: History
Publisher: Avery Color Studios
1 review about Ghost Ships, Gales and Forgotten Tales:...

Lesser-known tales of the Great Lakes

  • Jun 4, 2001
I believe this book was written partly to counter-act the romantic story-telling of Great Lakes authors like Dwight Boyer ("True Tales of the Great Lakes," "Ghost Ships of the Great Lakes," etc.) and William Ratigan ("Great Lakes Shipwrecks & Survivals").

"Ghost Ships, Gales & Forgotten Tales" is a very well-researched, workman-like book that casts new light on (among other things) the invention and demise of Whalebacks, the Lake Michigan Storm of October, 1880 (also known as the "Alpena Storm" because of the sinking of the big passenger sidewheeler, 'Alpena'), and the chaos caused by the smash-up of the Poe Lock by the 'Isaac L. Ellwood' in November, 1909.

My favorite story concerns the " Alpena Storm" and the loss of the 'Trader.' The author really did his research on the little steamer 'Trader,' which actually foundered a couple of days before the great storm of 1880. Her eleven crewmen were rescued by the schooner 'Guide' and the 'Trader' itself was towed to Grand Haven. Two days later, the "Alpena Storm" thundered down onto Lake Michigan and "full many a midnight ship with all its shrieking crew" sank beneath its suddenly murderous waves---including the 'Trader,' which somehow broke away from her mooring in Grand Haven. However at the time of her sinking she had no crew, even though the 'loss' of her eleven men was reported in all of the newspapers:

"To Captain Brown [the 'Trader's master], the whole matter of the 'Trader' was probably an on-going source of aggravation for months to come. He found himself having to explain to his peers, each time that they met, how it was that he had not perished on Lake Michigan. Yet acquaintances that he had not seen in years greeted the good captain as if just returned from the great beyond."

The author has included photographs and drawings of many of the ships featured in his stories, and also maps of where some of them disappeared below the waves.

For the most part, Oleszewski stays away from the oft-told tales like the tragedy of the 'Eastland,' or the sinking of the 'Lady Elgin.' When he does touch upon a well-known event, he focuses on one of the 'little guys'---an old barge, tugboat, or schooner on the Lake long past its retirement date---that got caught in the same storm as the big freighters.

According to its back cover, "Ghost Ships, Gales & Forgotten Tales" casts new light on some of the obscure Lake events that "have been under-reported, or forgotten altogether."

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