SS Benjamin Noble

The SS Benjamin Noble was a lake freighter that operated on the Great Lakes. Built in 1909 by the Detroit Shipbuilding Company, she was 239 feet (73 m) in length and had a beam of 40 feet (12 m). She was built as a "canaller," a vessel designed for use in what were then the dimensions of the Welland Canal, but was converted by her owners for services in the open Great Lakes. Heavily laden and top-heavy with a cargo of railroad rails, she sank in a Lake Superior storm near Knife River, Minnesota, in April 1914 with the loss of all hands.[2]

The Benjamin Noble prior to her sinking
 United States
Name: Benjamin Noble
Operator: Capitol Transportation Company
Builder: Detroit Shipbuilding Company
Launched: April 28, 1909
In service: 1909
Out of service: 1914
Homeport:  United States, Detroit, Michigan
Identification: U.S Registry #206240
Fate: Foundered April 29, 1914 off Knife River, Lake Superior
General characteristics
Type: canaller
Displacement: 1,481 long tons (1,505 t)
Length: 239 ft (73 m)
Beam: 40 ft (12 m)
Height: 18 ft (5.5 m)
Propulsion: Triple expansion steam engine
LocationLake Superior near Knife River
Nearest cityDuluth, Minnesota
Coordinates46°56.00′N 91°40.00′W
ArchitectDetroit Shipbuilding Company
Architectural styleCanaller
NRHP reference #07000984[1]
Added to NRHP2007

Had she been able to make anchor in the sheltered port of Duluth, the Benjamin Noble would have been saved. However, at a key moment in the storm, entry to the harbor was unnavigable after the obsolescent south pier torch light blew out.[3] Harbor laborer Stan Standen tried to reach the light to relight it, but was blown into the canal and lost.[4] Of the estimated 16 [5] to 18[4] to 20[6] crew members, only about the names of 11 are known.[7] On April 29, 1914 it was reported several crewmembers' remains were found on a sand reef near Minnesota Reef.[8]

After more than 90 years as a ghost ship, the hulk of the Benjamin Noble was rediscovered in the autumn of 2004.[9] The wreck was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2007 as NRHP site #07000984.[10]


The Benjamin Noble was unique among Lake freighters because her stern cabins were elevated on a poop deck. Her bow cabins were also elevated on a forecastle deck. This also meant that she sat quite low in the water meaning that her spar deck often got wet. Maritime historian Dwight Boyer attributes the 1914 loss of the vessel to a combination of deliberate cargo overloading and the ship's unusual design. On her last voyage the low-riding vessel had very little freeboard and was vulnerable to swamping.[2]


In the Autumn of 2004 a shipwreck research team consisting of Jerry Eliason, Kraig Smith, Ken Merryman and Randy Beebe were searching for the Robert Wallace when their side scan sonar picked up the outlines of a shipwreck.[9] Randy Beebe described the event:

It was the last pass of the day, which was going to be the last day of the search season. We were just going to pull up the side-scan sonar and head in, and we noticed a target on the screen. So right away we headed over there and investigated it more with the side-scan sonar, and sure enough we had a shipwreck.[9]

The team was expecting to see the Wallace, but the ship they found was made of steel. They were able to lower a camera into the cargo hold of the mystery ship. They saw railroad cars full of railroad rails, this confirmed that the wreck was that of the long lost Benjamin Noble.[9]


John EisenhardtCaptainfrom Milwaukee, Wisconsin[7][11]
George R. LongleyMatefrom 1947 Whitney Avenue Niagara Falls, New York[7][3]
John J. CloonanStewardfrom Oswego, New York[7][3]
Thomas ProudStewardfrom Oswego, New York[7][3]
Alvin Conger/CogerChief Engineerfrom Port Clinton, Ohio, member of MEBA 37, believed to have been engaged[7][12]
Anthony BolcoroskiSecond Engineerfrom Oak Harbor, Ohio, member of MEBA 37[7][3]
Joel/Jed Conger/CogerOilerfrom Port Clinton, Ohio, engaged to be married, brother of Alvin Conger[7][12]
Frank CougherOilerfrom Port Clinton, Ohio,[7][12]
William GoulettFiremanfrom Toledo, Ohio,[7][3]
Alton GuntchFiremanfrom Toledo, Ohio,[7][12]
Otto GuntschFiremanfrom Toledo, Ohio,[3]
9-6 other unidentified menunknownunknown

See also


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