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Wisconsin National Register of Historic Places

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Lucerne - historic photo

Schooner "Lucerne"
Northeast of Long Island in Wisconsin's Apostle Islands, Lake Superior
Launched: 1873
Sank: November 16, 1886

The Lucerne was a 194.9-foot long, three-masted, clipper-bowed schooner built to haul bulk grain, coal and iron ore on the Great Lakes. During the 1870s she sailed between Lake Michigan ports and Buffalo, NY carrying Midwestern grain to the east and coal on her return trip. In her final shipping year, her ownership changed and her eastbound cargo became Lake Superior iron ore.

On her last voyage, the Lucerne offloaded coal at Washburn, Wisconsin before proceeding to nearby Ashland, where she loaded 1,256 tons of Gogebic iron ore and set sail for Cleveland. This was about 100 tons lighter than her usual summer load and probably due to the anticipated rough autumn waters of Lake Superior. The weather was clear, showing no signs of the impending snowstorm, which sank the Lucerne. Her final resting place is some sixty miles from where she was last sighted, in heavy seas and snow squalls off Ontonagon on the dangerous lea shore of Michigan's Keweenaw Peninsula. She sailed west, apparently trying to find shelter in Chequamegon Bay where she had anchored, but was torn apart by one of the lake's infamous "Gales of November." None of her crew survived the wreck.

State and federal laws protect this shipwreck. Divers may not remove artifacts or structure when visiting this shipwreck site. Removing, defacing, displacing or destroying artifacts or sites is a crime. More information on Wisconsin's historic shipwrecks may be found by visiting Wisconsin's Great Lakes Shipwrecks website.


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