Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Silver Bay And The Hesper

Our next stop after diving the Madeira was Silver Bay, just up Highway 61 from Beaver Bay.  My dad's friend, Don Franklin, worked for Reserve Mining Company which is pretty much all there is in Silver Bay.  Don refilled our scuba tanks at the local fire station and chatted with us for a bit about exactly where to go, though he declined to go with us. The year before he had taken my father and my brother to Isle Royale and had shown them the wreck of the passenger steamer, the S.S. America.

The harbor at Silver Bay has a wreck named Hesper which went down in 1905, the same year as the Madeira:

 The Hesper lies in three big pieces in about 35 to 40 feet of water.  Part of her is partially buried under the western breakwater wall.  The jetty makes for an easy way to get up close to the wreck site, although you have to pick your way across the rocks [added: the jetty is visible in a photo at the website that I linked to below. The wreck is about 3/4 of the way out on the left (harbor) side]. You can visualize the wreck with the help of this sketch (click to enlarge):

According to my dad, Don and his friends discovered the wreck and were the first to dive on her. Some recovered artifacts can now be seen in a museum in Duluth.  Because the wreck lies inside the breakwater and the harbor is busy, the water is pretty turbid.  Consequently, the underwater visibility is not as good as found at the Madeira.  Nonetheless, the wreck is impressive.

Here is a photo of the wreck my dad took, looking pretty much as I remember it:

The Minnesota State Historical Society maintains a website with additional photographs of the Hesper here.


  1. That is pretty cool dude. I love the photo. I find it fascinating but I would never want to dive. I like water. But only when added a little to some scotch. Just sayn'

  2. I know that those guys up there along the coast were pretty hard drinkers. There wasn't much else to do in the winters up there but drink.

    Troop, thanks again for dropping by. You kind of inspired this whole miniseries last year with your Father's Day blog post.

  3. There is a song about Hesper. I regret that I can't link to the music. Lyrics are here.

  4. Hold on -- might be two different ships of the same name.

  5. What an amazing find Hector!
    When my my dad first started going up to Superior, he used to camp on the property of an old fisherman named Fritz Johnson who owned property up the coast from a wreck called the Ely. Fritz was old enough to remember the big storm of 1905 that sank 30 or so wrecks in one night.
    By the time I was old enough to go along Fritz was well into his 80s or 90s and was essentially housebound. Still, the sense of elapsed time and life spans is shortened.

  6. Sure now that they are two different ships of the same name. Sorry I lunged at the overly-obvious without checking a little further.

    But I think your other implied point, that we ought to listen to the stories the old ones have to tell, cannot be emphasized enough.

    Listen, record if you can. "Those who do not remember history" are very similar to those who have never heard it at all, and will suffer a similar fate.

  7. On this page you'll find the lyrics to a fine old song about a dreadful disaster at sea, and a reference to St. Martin, as well. Scroll down to "Sing a sang at least."

    I can't find a satisfactory version of "Threescore and Ten" on Youtube. Maybe I should do one myself, and lay off the griping. This one seems to be as good as they get, but you can fast-forward through the first minute or so of the harmonica solo.