Lake Superior Shipwrecks
U.S.S. Essex
Present Description

wreck site drawing
Artists drawing of wreck site; MHS/SHPO Collections

The wreck site of the U.S.S. Essex, a wooden screw sloop, is situated on the shoreline of Lake Superior at Park Point, Minnesota, approximately one-third of a mile northwest of the base of the Superior Harbor entrance jetties. Investigations of the remains of the Essex in 1992 show the wreckage consists of a 50-foot length of the bottom of the hull. The remains are partially submerged, extending into approximately 4 feet of water. Only a very small portion of the remains are covered by sand. The remaining hull is comprised of portions of the keelson, rider keelson and sister keelsons (present over most of the 50-foot length), frames which project outward only to the turn of the bilge and some ceiling and hull planks. A portion of what appears to be a machinery mount is present on the shore end of the remains.

wreck site image 1 wreck site image 2

Photo 1: U.S.S. Essex wreck: hull timbers, May, 1992; MHS/SHPO Collections
Photo 2: U.S.S. Essex wreck: engine mount, May, 1992; MHS/SHPO Collections

The framing is an incredibly tight and strong construction, with no space between frames, frames being composed of two futtocks and a single floor. Futtocks measure 14 inches moulded and between 1 foot 1 inch to 1 foot 6 inches sided. The central keelson measures 14 inches sided while the sisters, layed immediately adjacent the keelson, are 8 inches sided. A single extant bilge stringer measures 9 inches sided and 5 1/2 inches moulded. Hull planks measure 4 inches thick and between 11 and 12 inches wide, while the ceiling measures 4 inches thick and 12 inches wide and appears to be constructed of pine.

wreck site image 1 wreck site image 2

Photo 1: U.S.S. Essex wreck: engine mount timber, May, 1992; MHS/SHPO Collections
Photo 2: U.S.S. Essex wreck: ironwood mortice and tenon, May, 1992; MHS/SHPO Collections

The vessel is heavily fastened with copper alloy drift bolts, the ceiling being fastened with 1/2 inch copper alloy drifts and copper alloy clinch rings (washers), and the hull planking is fastened with 1/2 inch drifts as opposed to spikes. The keelsons and machinery mounts are fastened with much larger copper drifts of varying alloys, some exceeding 1 inch in diameter. An interesting architectural feature present in the form of fasteners are ironwood lignum vitae tenon-like plugs. The 3 inch diameter plugs are recessed and found in the keelson, sister keelson and futtock ends. They were observed on one futtock to edge fasten it to another futtock. The plugs had 1/2 inch copper alloy drifts in their centers.


|--U.S.S. Essex-- |--Historic Description--|
|--Construction and Career-- |--Description of the Wreck Event--|
|--Post-Depositional Impacts-- |--Present Description-- |--Significance-- |--Photographs--|
|--Minnesota Lake Superior Shipwrecks-- |
|--Minnesota Historical Society Homepage--|