Astonishing Footage Shows WWII-Era Shipwreck Unearthed From the Bottom of Lake Superior

A World War II-era shipwreck has been recovered beneath 600 feet of water in Michigan’s Lake Superior. On February 12, the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society (GLSHS) announced the news along with shipwreck researcher Dan Fountain, who spearheaded the recovery effort.

Fountain has spent the last decade hunting for shipwrecks in Lake Superior, using remote sensing data and a Marine Sonic Technology side-scan sonar to aid his search. When Fountain detected “a particularly deep anomaly,” he contacted the GLSHS.

That anomaly turned out to be the Arlington, a 244-foot bulk carrier which sunk, along with its captain, in 1940.

The Arlington sunk in the early morning hours of May 1, 1940.<p>Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum</p>
The Arlington sunk in the early morning hours of May 1, 1940.

Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum

“Dan Fountain approached us with a potential target near the Copper Harbor area of Lake Superior. These targets don’t always amount to anything…but this time it absolutely was a shipwreck. A wreck with an interesting, and perhaps mysterious story,” Bruce Lynn, executive director of GLSHS, said. “Had Dan not reached out to us, we might never have located the Arlington…and we certainly wouldn’t know as much about her story as we do today.”

The Arlington's deck, pictured during the recovery effort.<p>Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum</p>
The Arlington's deck, pictured during the recovery effort.

Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum

<em>The Arlington's wheel, pictured during the recovery effort.</em><p>Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum</p>
The Arlington's wheel, pictured during the recovery effort.

Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum

The Arlington's wheel, pictured during the recovery effort.<p>Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum</p>
The Arlington's wheel, pictured during the recovery effort.

Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum

Captain Frederick "Tatey Bug" Burke and the Arlington’s crew departed Port Arthur, Ontario, on April 30, 1940. They were carrying a load of wheat to nearby Owen Sound, Ontario. Burke was an experienced captain on the lakes, more than able to navigate the thick fog blanketing their course. But a fierce storm broke out during their first evening at sea, and by night the Arlington was rapidly taking on water.

An alarm was sounded at 4:30 a.m., but according to reports, Burke stubbornly refused to give his crew any direction. Recognizing the hopelessness of their predicament, they took it upon themselves to abandon ship. Luckily, they were quickly rescued by another freighter, the Collingwood, which was similarly trekking across Lake Superior.

Even as the rest of the crew safely disembarked, Burke decided to go down with his ship. It’s a decision which sparked much speculation. He was last seen near the Arlington’s pilothouse, waving to the Collingwood. Moments later, the ship disappeared underwater.

A drawing depicting the Arlington's sinking for local news outlets at the time. Crew can be seen escaping on lifeboats as the Collingwood looms in the distance.<p>Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum</p>
A drawing depicting the Arlington's sinking for local news outlets at the time. Crew can be seen escaping on lifeboats as the Collingwood looms in the distance.

Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum

Captain Frederick "Tatey Bug" Burke is in this drawing waving to his crew as they abandon the sinking ship.<p>Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum</p>
Captain Frederick "Tatey Bug" Burke is in this drawing waving to his crew as they abandon the sinking ship.

Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum

For nearly 100 years, historians and hobbyists alike have tried to determine what happened to the Arlington and where it ended up. Though many answers remain unresolved, the ship's discovery begins the process of uncovering exactly what happened in 1940.

“It’s exciting to solve just one of Lake Superior’s many mysteries,” Fountain enthused. “I hope this final chapter in her story can provide some measure of closure to the family of Captain Burke.”