Technology has vastly improved the safety of ships and their crews on the Great Lakes as time goes on. We have a better understanding of weather patterns, better equipment to detect it, and any potential hazards in the water, and just overall, hundreds of years of experience sailing these inland seas has been handed down, Captain to Captain, on how to survive.

But, it doesn't mean freak accidents don't still happen, and ships can still be lost... or at least severely damaged... on the Great Lakes to this day. But how frequently does it actually happen?

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Michipicoten 'Runs Aground' in 2024

Mostly recently, a 689-foot Canadian Freighter named the Michipicoten had to radio to the Coast Guard, and Transport Canada, that they had suddenly started taking on water, and began to list. The ship was loaded down with Taconite - a type of low-grade iron - and was steaming by Isle Royale when the incident happened.

Officials towed it safely to Thunder Bay back in Ontario where both Canadian, and American officials will conduct surveys to determine what caused the hull damage on the ship - whether it ran aground, whether it was a hull failure, or a combination of both.


Thankfully, nobody on the crew was hurt, and all but a few were allowed off the ship when it made dock.

If it did run aground, though, it would be a strange occurrence, since the ship was sailing out of Minnesota, and headed to Thunder Bay using very common shipping channels, which officials say were NOT obstructed at the time of the incident.

So what happened? Well, until authorities can determine the cause, it's safe to say the ship may have just run aground, but that can't be a common occurrence in modern times, with state-of-the-art technology, right?

How Often Do Ships Crash In The Great Lakes Now?

Since the 1970s, very few large vessels have crashed, and sunk in the Great Lakes. One of the last, and largest to ever sink was the famed Edmund Fitzgerald in 1975 on Lake Superior. Since then, most documented crashes that resulted in ships sinking were mostly small boats - fishing vessels, or even tugs.

The most recent one on record was the Canadian Ship, True North II, a glass bottom tour boat that was in about 50 feet of water off the coast of Tobermory, Ontario in the Georgian Bay. That ship sadly claimed the lives of two students who were on the tour with a class of 13 when the ship got caught in rain, and gale-force winds.

BUT, all indications point to the captain of that vessel ignoring small craft advisories in the area, which likely was the blame.

But since about the 1980s, ships bottoming out, or even crashing at all has become extremely rare. Sinkings are practically unheard of.

Documentary Detective II via YouTube
Documentary Detective II via YouTube
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Additional technology to monitor the weather, as well as consistently monitored system, and updated ship monitors have made sailing the Great Lakes one of the safest forms of Travel in North America. Aside from wayward swimmers who get caught in the surf, shipwrecks have accounted for less than a dozen deaths in the past several decades.

In fact, the Edmund Fitzgerald is credited as the last major shipping disaster to have happened, which makes this most recent incident very curious, given how safe sailing on the Lakes has become. It'll be interesting to see what officials find out really happened.

Adella Shores: Century Old Shipwreck Discovered in Lake Superior

The Adella Shores disappeared on May 1, 1909, during a gale in Michigan's Lake Superior near Whitefish Point. Over 100 years after the ship 'Went Missing,' the wreckage of the 195-foot wooden steamer has been found 650 feet below the icy waters of Lake Superior. Here's a look at the Adella Shores today, courtesy of the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum.

Gallery Credit: Scott Clow

Draining Lake Superior to Reveal Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

Seeing the wreck of the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald with any clarity is almost impossible in the cloudy waters of Lake Superior. Blue Star Line has used the latest digital imagery to pull the plug on Michigan's largest lake, to give us a one-of-a-kind view of our state's most legendary sunken ship.

Gallery Credit: Scott Clow

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