The schooner-barge Pretoria
, the largest wooden ship ever built on the Great lakes, lies in about 54 feet of water off of Outer Island, Lake Superior, in Ashland County. Launched in July 1900, the Pretoria
is one of the last wooden bulk carriers built on the lakes and represents that type of ship construction at its height. Built, owned and operated by the well known James Davidson of West Bay City, Michigan, the Pretoria
was used to carry a variety of cargoes. When Pretoria
sank on September 1, 1905, she was carrying a load of iron ore that had been loaded in Superior, Wisconsin.
On September 1, 1905, after loading iron ore at Superior, Wis., and in tow of the Steamer Venezuela
a storm hit parting the tow line. The Pretoria
was left to drift towards the Apostle Islands. She dropped anchor near Outer Island, but the heavy seas were no match. The captain and crew abandoned ship, but the yawl turned over in the surf of Outer Island and five members died.
Although the wreck has been salvaged and the hull broken apart, its three major pieces, consisting of the bilge, port and starboard sides retain excellent integrity. The vessel's anchor windless also remain on site. Additional debris associated with the Pretoria
can be encountered for several miles around the main wreckage. The main portion of the Pretoria
is found on a hard bottom of sandstone bedrock at a maximum depth of 54 feet of water.
As a side note, the large donkey boiler from the Pretoria
had been salvaged in 1961 and had set in a woods for forty years was returned to the wreck site in June 2001.
A dive guide for this vessel is available for purchase.