Pathfinder (1869)
Aerial photograph of the Pathfinder site taken from powered-parachute by Suzze Johnson in the summer of 2013.
Archaeologist takes measurements of the Pathfinder's bow
Aerial photograph of the Pathfinder site taken from powered-parachute by Suzze Johnson in the summer of 2013.
Frame sets and reinforced keelson assembly
Archaeological site plan
By The Numbers
Lives Lost
Depth (ft)
Service History

The wooden three masted schooner Pathfinder was built by Campbell, Owen and Company at Detroit in 1869. She worked in the grain trade making several trips carrying coal from ports on Lake Erie to the upper lakes and returning with grain. Pathfinder was large for a wooden schooner measuring nearly 200 feet in length. To achieve that length she was built with a massive reinforced keelson structure. Her offical registry number was 20290 and she was valued at $27,000 and rated A2 by the Board of Lake Underwriters in 1874.

1869: Damaged in a collision near Chicago.

November 1871: The Pathfinder ran foul of the Grand Trunk warehouse. She lost her jibboom, headgear and received a leak. Placed in dock at Port Huron.

1872: Strengthened.

June 1874: Outfit damaged.

September 1874: Aground along with a cargo of ore on the Colchester reef in Lake Erie.

1877: Received a new deck along with major repairs.

1882: Collided with the steambarge Fred McBrier at Detroit.

Novveber 11, 1883: Lost her sails at Thunder Bay.

The Last Document of Enrollment: surrendered, Milwaukee; 6/30/1897; "Vessel Lost".
Final Voyage

On the night of November 17, 1886, Pathfinder was loaded with a cargo of 1,200 tons of iron ore and in tow of the steam barge Jim Sheriffs north of Twin Rivers Point (now Rawley Point) when they encountered an enormous gale and snowstorm. By 10 PM, Pathfinder iced up and broke her towline. The captain of the Jim Sheriffs made several attempts to pick her up, but the sea conditions prevented him from getting near her and she went ashore in a bed of quicksand at about 4 AM. At daylight, the Pathfinder's crew sighted the Jim Sheriffs at anchor and rowed out to her in their yawl with great difficulty. No lives were lost.

Within days after the storm, Pathfinder, high aground with her heavy load of iron ore, started breaking up in the surf. Reports came in that she was broken amidships and a little less than a week later, she was declared a total loss. Pathfinder had an insurance rating of A 2 1/2 and a valuation of $15,000 in the Inland Lloyds. She was insured for $13,000 aside from the cargo of 1,200 tons of iron ore. Estimates set the value of the vessel and cargo at over $26,000. Pathfinder's enrollment was surrendered on June 30, 1887 at the Port of Milwaukee reporting that the vessel was a total loss.

Pathfinder lies in 15 feet of water, in a bed of quicksand. The site was reported by Suzze Johnson while flying in a powered parachute in the fall of 2013. Measuring just less than 200 feet in length, Pathfinder is an excellent site for exploration by divers, kayakers and snorkelers.Though the hull structure has split and twisted, most of the vessel’s lower hull remains intact, as does the cargo of iron ore Pathfinder was carrying when she sank. Though much of her upper deck works, rigging and anchors were salvaged shortly after her grounding, major structural components of the vessel remain points of interest for visitors, including her centerboard trunk and keelson structure.

A dive guide for this vessel is available for purchase.
Confirmed Location     Unconfirmed location
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