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Lake Huron

SS Florida - Alpena/Presque Isle area

Depth 170 to 210 ft/ Length 270 ft/ Steamer with masts and sails/ Launched 1889/ Sunk on May 20, 1897 in collision

This is my favorite wreck   

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Built in 1889 in Buffalo, 271 ft Florida was one of the largest vessels of her time. She was one the early wooden steam driven propeller vessels that were also given the basic set of masts and sails to supplement or add to the steam power that was not yet reliable. Eight years later, in 1897, Florida was working the Chicago-Buffalo route under the charter for Lackawanna Lane carrying primarily wheat, plus some other general merchandise in the top hold level. On her third trip of the season, while down-bound on Lake Huron and in the dense fog, she collided with the steamer George W. Roby.  Although Florida was one of the larger vessels in her time, Roby, at 281 ft, was even larger and it had a metal hull that easily pierced the Florida’s side almost in the middle of the starboard side. The crack is still quite visible today

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So bad was that wound that Florida sunk in just 12 minutes. These twelve minutes, however, were just enough for everyone of Florida crew to be picked up by Roby. The reports from Roby and Florida’s crew indicated that the vessel hit the bottom stern first and jackknifed – I am not sure how they could tell what was happening judging by the debris floating up, but it would appears that they were right.

Today, the wreck sits on the bottom in 210 ft. It is upright and intact up to the boilers room. The bow is featured the anchors, still affixed on both sides. Near the bow, the capstan still had its cover on with “SS Florida” easily readable.

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Between the bow and the aft cabin, several hold contained various goods that were there when the steamer floundered. Zebra mussels were starting to claim this wreck, but most of the goods were still easily recognizable in 2004, but not so much in 2008. There were the remains of hand carts, coffee sets, other china. In addition to china and handcarts, Florida was transporting a lot of barrels – some of them disintegrated to wooden planks and hoops, but some are intact and a lot of them floated to the ceiling and remain there

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The masts of Florida have all fallen down to her desk. One of the masts had a very interesting looking round shape at the  very tip of it – not quite sure what it was. Florida had the unique half moon crosstrees on her masts that are still there

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One of the crosstrees is sitting right on top of the intact aft cabin. The cabin had one room on the port side and two in the starboard side. The port side is wide open with bulkheads having fallen away. Some items, such as stove are still present. On the side of the cabin, there is an axe affixed to the wall.

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Immediately aft of that cabin, there is another one, housing the boilers. That one used to have dual smokestacks coming out of it, but they since have fallen away and only the holes remain. Past the boilers room, the wrecks looks like someone sliced it with the giant knife – it just ends exposing all three levels around the boilers.

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Aft of where the wreck ends, the engine is sitting on the bottom, completely out in the open with lots of artifacts around and on it. The brass gauges (all five of them) are located at the port side of the engine. The remainder of the capstan is sticking out nearby. Someone found the capstan cap with the name of the wreck on it and placed it on top of the cylinder in 2004 (see fourth picture). The plate was still on a wreck in 2008, but in different location.

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Aft of the engine, the wreck came to shape again, displaying the stern part that was standing relatively upright with the rudder and the prop still there, although the prop is pretty undercut and it was almost an overhead environment around it. 

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