A buddy and I were watching Netflix's new psychological, mind-bending thriller 1899. It's an excellent series that you should definitely check out. Selfishly, if they get good ratings there will be a season 2, and I really need that to happen.
The show starts with an immigrant ship traveling across the Atlantic Ocean from Europe to America in 1899. They encounter a ghost ship that has been missing for months. It's really spooky, and fascinating. The show is very binge-worthy. By the end of each episode, you just have to start the next one.
Anyway, my buddy and I got to talking and he was sharing stories about ghost ships on Lake Superior that he heard from his dad's sailor friends in the Twin Ports. That got my interest peaked, so I did a deep dive into Lake Superior ghost ships. It turns out there is one story that stands above the rest. There actually is a ship that has been dubbed "They Flying Dutchman" of the Great Lakes.
The ship is the S.S. Bannockburn. It was a freighter from Ontario, Canda that went vanished on November 21st, 1902. Nobody knows exactly what happened to the ship, because to this day the wreckage has never been found. Even weirder is that another nearby ship had it in its sights as it passed by. The Algonquin's captain reported seeing it in the distance. A short time later he looked for it again, but it had vanished. The Captain didn't think much of it but assumed it was just poor visibility.
Bannockburn was a cursed ship from the start.
This ship did not have a great track record. In October of 1897, the Bannockburn was traveling through the Welland Canal when it struck the wall, sprung a leak, and sank to the bottom of the shallow canal. The water was shallow enough that they were able to salvage and repair the ship. Nobody died in that incident.
She was also damaged after running into rocks at full speed once. They unloaded a bunch of cargo and were able to get the ship to port and repair it.
Then, on the same trip she eventually was lost, she ran aground on her way out to open water. No damage was reported, and she carried on her way. The next day was the last day she was ever seen. At least that is, with a live crew.
The Bannockburn had a very unique outline, different than any ship on the Great Lakes at the time. A bad storm occurred on the day she was last seen. At 11 pm, a passenger ship reported passing what they believe was the Bannockburn. Weather was bad, but there was no distress signal and the two ships passed.
The ship was supposed to arrive at the Soo Locks, but never did. Days later it was reported missing. A lengthy investigation led insurance underwriters to believe she had sunk somewhere near Caribou Island. There is a reef near the island, and the lighthouse had been turned off intentionally a week earlier. The captain may not have been aware and may have not seen the reef.
Others thought she may have suffered a boiler explosion. Either way, the Bannockburn was never found. The only thing that ever was found was a life preserver from the ship that washed ashore on the shore of Grand Marais.
Ghost ship sightings happened only a year after her disappearance.
Like I said earlier, the outline of the ship was very identifiable. Sailors on Lake Superior reported seeing her in bad weather. They believed the ghost ship was trying to warn sailors of danger. It would also appear in heavy fog.
November 1947 incident with the Walter A. Hitchinson.
Like previous sightings, this one took place in bad weather. A November Gale had whipped up some nasty waters when the freighter Walter A. Hitchinson suffered electronic issues and lost navigation. The freighter moved closer to shore to continue to navigate with the shoreline. According to the crew, the Bannockburn appeared and charged their ship. They struggled to turn the Hitchinson to portside to avoid a collision. That's when they saw the Bannockburn tear apart after it hit rocks. According to Ghost & Monsters, if the Hitchinson had continued her course she would have been the ship to be torn apart. The crew credits the Bannockburn for saving their lives by warning them by charging them.
Some believe the Bannockburn is still out, sailing on Lake Superior, warning others to prevent them from meeting her same fate.