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BREE'S BLOG: In The Wake of the Fitzgerald

There are bodies down there

Night came. Down on the waterfront, where I was tied up with my boat Persistence, lights on the ore docks blurred in fog. It was chill and eerie as I made my way up the hill away from the misty dock. "Glad to see you tonight," the security guard Bill Burke said. "I heard you were back on the dock." He was referring to my near escape with a northeaster today, which had sprung up suddenly out of the fog and I was caught again in savage winds and racing waves. Bill poured me a cup of coffee and began reminiscing about some of his SCUBA diving experiences. "I was among the first to explore the Canadian steamer, the Emperor. She struck Canoe Rocks off Isle Royale in 1947 and still lies in a hundred fifty feet of water, with her stern sticking out over a deep cliff. Twelve went down with her, including four women. We were the first ones really to penetrate in and we found one body." I was surprised: a body still intact since 1947? Bill cleared his throat: "The nose was pretty well gone, the eyes were gone, but a surprisingly a good part of his lips were still there; the face, his skin, his hair, his clothes were still there, and the only thing that was truly missing and that was a kind of mystery and we presume it was due to the explosion of the boilers-- were his arms from the elbows down. Had you known this person in life, even after years on the bottom, you would have known him, for he was just that well preserved." When the astonished amateur divers surfaced, they found their complications had just begun. If the divers brought up the body and couldn't find anyone to take charge of the burial, they would be the ones responsible financially. A newspaper story got out, Bill said, and we were very concerned that the body would draw curiosity seekers and other divers who weren't qualified to go that deep. "We had to do something. So we finally decided to go back down and drop the body off the stern." I thought: "In effect, off the cliff." Bill said he thought that should have eliminated the problem, but when the divers went down the second time they took some pictures. Later, when they were looking at slides, they noticed that on one of the bunks, with a lot of junk on it, was another body. "You could see the legs, you could actually see the formation of the hind end and the upper body and the arms reaching up. "A shiver went down my spine. "So there are more bodies on board? Still down there?" Bill looked at the fog over the harbor, and grew thoughtful. "There's a lot about Superior that we don't know yet, including a lot of ships that are still down there, untouched since when they went down."
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