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H.C. Ackley

The H. C. Akeley was built at Mechanics Dry Dock by Thomas W. Kirby and Healy C. Akeley in the once-busy commercial port of Grand Haven, Michigan. The vessel was named for it’s financier, Healy Cady Akeley, who arrived in Grand Haven in 1858 and was instrumental in developing local lumber and shipping industries. The 230-foot steamer cost over $110,000, was launched in the spring of 1881, and was outfitted with 3 masts used to assist in cargo loading. The engine and boilers for the vessel were salvaged from the General Paine, a tugboat that was originally built in 1865 on the East Coast and named the USS Trefoil.



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Other Names:also spelled "Ackley" and "Ackeley" in reports
Official Number:95639
Vessel Built:1881, Kirby & Akeley, Grand Haven, MI
Vessel Specifications:Specs : 240 ft., 1187g 794n
Type of Vessel:Propeller, wood, bulk freight
Depth to Deck:255 ft (78m)
Depth to Bottom:275 ft (84m)
How it Sunk:According to survivors, the Akeley was heading north, just abeam of Milwaukee, and encountered the tug Protection, which had become disabled while towing the schooner Arab. The Arab sank while under tow and the Protection’s machinery was damaged during the operation. The Akeley took the tug in tow and headed north into the gathering storm. Soon thereafter, the strain on the Akeley’s rudder was too much and the wheelman lost control of the vessel. The Protection was immediately cut loose to fend for herself, later grounding off Saugatuck. At 10:30 PM on Sunday November 11th the feed pipe from the port boiler was ripped off due to high seas and steam began leaking out. Any one of the now twisted pipes over the port boiler could have been the one damaged. At 11:30 PM, while working on the boiler, the engineer heard two gunshot-like sounds. as the guy chains supporting the smoke stack snapped off. The Akeley’s funnel toppled over the side. Only the plenum, which connected the two boilers to the stack, is visible at the wreck site. Since the Akeley continued to drift, it is likely that the stack is on the lake bottom some distance from the ship’s final resting spot. As the waves worsened, one of the two lifeboats was ripped from the vessel. The lone remaining lifeboat davit on the port side stern may well have held that lifeboat. Our first glimpse of the Akeley on the side scan in May 2001.During the next day, Monday, November 12th, the Akeley’s condition worsened. Survivors reported that in an attempt to ride out the storm, Captain Stretch ordered the anchor set. The starboard anchor chain on the wreck is paid out from the hawse pipe and lies semi-embedded in the sand running northwest from the wreck. The path of the chain can be distinctly seen on the side scan image. While the anchor has not yet been seen, it likely lies buried many hundred feet from wreck at the end of the anchor chain. At anchor, the crew battled the storm overnight, and by Monday late morning the situation looked hopeless. The two bilge pumps seen lying on deck may have been in operation during the storm as the ship took on water. The schooner, Driver, bound from Chicago to Grand Haven encountered the Akeley and stood by in an attempt to rescue the crew. Twelve men launched the remaining lifeboat to row to safety on the Driver. The captain and five men chose to wait on the Akeley until the Driver could approach to the lee side and safely take them off. As the crew of the Driver tried to reach the lifeboat, a big wave hit the Akeley, and they saw the mizzenmast crack.
Loss Type:Strom
Date of Loss:November 12, 1883
Place of Loss:Off of Saugatuck, MI
Vessel Cargo:Corn
Lives Loss:6
References:Michigan Shpwreck Research Associates
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April 24, 2017

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