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Lake Superior Shipwrecks
Thomas Wilson
Present Description

The wreck of the Thomas Wilson lies substantially intact in 70 feet of water off the Duluth Ship Canal. It has survived in one piece, though the hull hassuffered considerable damage amidships. Damage to the vessel is confined to the superstructure, the forward midsection and the area of initial impact. This area of the Wilson's hull, however, containing its single cargo hold, is the most redundant area with respect to the ship's design. At the stern, the hull is complete from the keel to the main deck. All three after turrets are present. Portions of the cabin deck remain. Steel stanchions which supported the boat deck are scattered about the remaining parts of the cabin deck. The capstan and aftmost bollard are set in place at the last turret aft. Several cabin deck stanchions still stand in place. Rail stanchions are absent, though their original locations are evident in the wooden framing. The stack is absent above the cabin deck.

Photograph sonar reading 1 Photograph of divers 2
Photo. 1: Sonar reading of the Wilson, Sep. 1990; MHS/SHPO Collections
Photo. 2: Divers at the start of a Wilson dive, Sep. 1990; MHS/SHPO Collections

Along the midships, all hatch covers are absent, reportedly carried away by the rush of water at the time of sinking. The deck railing and stanchions are absent. An 80 foot to 100 foot section of the hull has been ripped open in the forward midships area, reportedly from anchors dragging through the wreck. Here the Wilson's hold and a coal bunker are open, exposing the cargo of Mesabi iron ore. Forward of the break, the Wilson's bow is intact from the keel to the top of the forward turret. The windlass is in place inside of the forward turret. Rail and rail stanchions are absent. Anchor chain is present on the starboard side, although both anchors were removed from the wreck during the 1970s. The bollard forward of the turret is broken and has fallen on itself.

Wilson underwater wreck photo 1 Wilson underwater wreck photo 2 Wilson underwater wreck photo 3

Photo. 1: Wilson wreck - broken bollard on the bow, Sep. 1990; MHS/SHPO Collections
Photo. 2: Wilson wreck - wooden ladder inside the after cargo hatch, Sep. 1990; MHS/SHPO Collections
Photo. 3: Wilson wreck - capstan of aft turret, Sep. 1990; MHS/SHPO Collections

Unlike the Frank Rockefeller, the interior of the Wilson has survived virtually unchanged since its loss in 1902. Divers who have penetrated inside the Wilson have reported seeing tools and other artifacts scattered about. Only a small percentage of the Wilson's artifactual record has been removed by divers and salvors. Heavy siltation within the hull has, no doubt, preserved considerably more material than has so far been reported.


|--Thomas Wilson-- |--Historic Description--|
|--Construction and Career-- |--Whaleback Freighters-- |--Description of the Wreck Event--|
|--Post-Depositional Impacts-- |--Present Description-- |--Significance-- |--Photographs--|
|--Minnesota Lake Superior Shipwrecks-- |
|--Minnesota Historical Society Homepage--|

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