Finding the Mansasoo

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Griffith Island, Georgian Bay, Ontario, the final resting place for the Manasoo steamship.

The Mansasoo left Manitoulin Island on September 14, 1928, headed towards Owen Sound with 17 crew, 4 passengers and 116 heads of cattle. Around 2:00 am, the ship met heavy seas and began settling on its stern. The captain led the steamship to nearest land, Griffith Island Lighthouse. The vessel sank sadly, before safety was reached. For 60 hours the captain, three sailors and one passenger sat in a life raft before being rescued by a passing steamer, the Manitoba. Seventeen lives and all cattle aboard perished.

Finding the Manasoo
Photo Credit: Chris Kohl, Ken Merryman and Jerry Eliason

Cris Kohl, Ken Merryman and Jerry Eliason found the wreck in the summer of 2018 in over 200 feet of water. These shipwreck hunters found the J H Jones the next day and year prior, the wreckage of the Jane Miller. It is estimated that there are over 7,000 shipwrecks in the Great Lakes and only 2,000 have been found.

The Mansasoos, including the pilot house and the wooden ship wheel, is very intact, due to the cold water. Typically, the pilot house is destroyed during sinking. According to Cris Khol the find of a 1927 Chevrolet Coupe still parked inside the Mansasoo is unheard of in a Great Lake shipwreck. It belonged to one of the ship’s passengers that survived. “I know of no other shipwreck in Lake Huron that has this,” Kohl said. He explained the rare find had belonged to one of the ship’s passengers who ended up surviving the shipwreck.

Finding the Manasoo
Photo Credit: Terry Irvine

The cause of the sinking was unexplained, but Cris Kohl, one of the discoverers of the shipwreck, along with Ken Merryman and Jerry Eliason, says someone left a door/hatch open and water rushed into the stern. However there is another theory. For the first 39 out of 40 years, the Mansasoos went by the name of Macassa, and carried cargo and passengers on Lake Ontario. The ship was acquired in early 1928 by the newly established Owen Sound Transport Company (now the famous Chi-Cheemaun ferry from Tobermory to Manitoulin Island, and Pelee Island ferry from Lake Erie). The refurbished vessel was renamed the Manasoo mainly on Manitoulin Island (Sault Ste. Marie), reflecting its main port stops.

Finding the Manasoo
Photo Credit: Terry Irvine

So it’s still not known why the Manasoo had to sink; superstition or human mistake?

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Kathy is the owner of Kirk Scuba Gear, a passionate Scuba Diver, Ocean Advocate and Managing Editor of The Scuba News Canada

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