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Scuba Diving the Defiance, Wooden Two-Masted Schooner

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The Audubon collided with the Defiance, a wooden two-masted schooner with a wreck length of 115 feet, a beam of 25 feet, a gross tonnage of 253, and carrying a cargo of corn and wheat on October 20, 1854.

The southbound Defiance (headed to Buffalo) collided with the northbound Aububon, (headed to Chicago) which was carrying rail steel. The collision, which occurred at 1:30 a.m., appears to have been caused by fog, darkness and the push for faster times sailing the lakes. The Defiance ripped a large hole in the side of Aububon, causing it to sink almost immediately. After struggling to make land a few miles away, the Defiance sank a few hours later. Lifeboats were deployed and there were no fatalities.


There was a push for speed on Great Lakes ships at the time, according to historical records. As a result, more wrecks occurred than ever before. Ship owners and sailors were reeling in the fall of 1854 after the most expensive season to date: 119 lives, 70 ships, and $2 million in property losses (a tidy sum for the times). In the 1800s, Lake Huron’s upbound and downbound sailing routes converged as they passed through Thunder Bay. In order to save time on their journeys, ships passed dangerously close to each other. The primary cause of the collision could also be blamed on the fog/darkness.

Diving the Defiance Wreck

The Defiance is still intact in 180-190 feet of water, frozen in time. The Audubon is only a few miles away. Dr. Robert Ballard and Jean-Michel Cousteau, two world-renowned explorers, have studied the wrecks, helping to bring national attention to these underwater historical treasures.


Blue Horizon

About Author

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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