Ottawa (tug)

The Ottawa was a tugboat that sank in Lake Superior off the coast of Russell, Bayfield County, Wisconsin. The wreckage site was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1992.[1]

The Ottawa
Name: Ottawa
Owner: Reid Wrecking Company, of Sarnia, Ontario (last owners)
Port of registry: United States
Builder: Built in 1881 at Chicago
Laid down: November 13, 1909
Launched: 1881
Fate: Burned and sank 29 November 1909
Status: Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1992
Notes: Wreck located between Basswood Island and the Bayfield Peninsula
General characteristics
Type: Tugboat
Tonnage: 610.8 gross tons
Length: 151 feet (46 m)
Beam: 28 feet
Depth of hold: 13 feet
Installed power: 600 horsepower engine
Notes: Originally named the Boscobel, renamed Ottawa when sold.
Ottawa (Tug) Shipwreck Site
Nearest cityRussell, Wisconsin
MPSGreat Lakes Shipwreck Sites of Wisconsin MPS
NRHP reference #92000594
Added to NRHPJune 8, 1992


Ottawa, originally named Boscobel, was built in Chicago, Illinois. It was the largest tug ever built in Chicago at the time and remained the largest and most powerful tug on the Great Lakes until its sinking in 1909.[2]

Originally the boat was used for rafting logs on Lake Michigan, but in 1901 was bought (and renamed) by the Reid Wrecking Company, based in Sarnia, Ontario.[3]

On November 13, 1909, a steamboat passing the Apostle Islands became stranded on a shoal two miles off of Outer Island during a storm. The ship's first mate and other members of the crew launched the lifeboat and went to land in order to get help. Four vessels tried for a week to aid the steamboat. Eventually, three more vessels, including Ottawa, were dispatched to the scene. On November 29, they were finally able to free the steamboat.[4] That evening, the Ottawa's crew ate dinner and retired to bed. Less than 30 minutes later, they were woken by a fire that was already out of control.[5] Ottawa was pushed away from the steamboat that they had earlier rescued by the other vessels in efforts to stop the spread of fire and another tugboat was sent to help Ottawa. Despite the efforts, Ottawa burned to the waterline and sank. All crew members were saved.

The cause of the fire remains unknown. Theories include that the fire was a result of spontaneous combustion in the ship's coal bunkers, which contained 130 tons of fuel.

See also


  1. "Ottawa (Tug) Shipwreck Site". Landmark Retrieved 2012-01-23.
  2. "Service History". Wisconsin Archived from the original on 2013-06-02. Retrieved 2012-01-23.
  3. Keller, James M. The Unholy Apostles. pp. 117–120. ISBN 0-933577-001.
  4. "Final Voyage page 1". Wisconsin Retrieved 2012-01-23.
  5. "Final Voyage page 2". Wisconsin Retrieved 2012-01-23.
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