“THE CLIFTON WAS THE ONLY WHALEBACK SHIP LEFT IN LAKE HURON THAT HADN’T ALREADY BEEN FOUND. THERE WAS NO QUESTION WE HAD FOUND THE CLIFTON.”
On September 21st, 1924, the steamship S.S. Clifton left Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, carrying a load of stone to Detroit, Michigan. The freighter was seen passing through the Straits of Mackinac at 10:20 a.m., and was last seen by a tug boat on upper Lake Huron that evening.
A gale came up, sweeping across the lake. The storm was violent and unrelenting. The S.S. Clifton would founder, taking with it the lives of all 28 sailors on board.
Three days later, when the S.S. Clifton didn’t arrive in Detroit as scheduled, a thorough search of the Lake Huron coast line – from Oscoda (near Alpena) to Port Huron – had failed to reveal any trace of the missing ship.
Eventually, wreckage from the S.S. Clifton, began drifting ashore on the Canadian side of Lake Huron, indicating that the whaleback freighter sank.
Also, the fact that no bodies floated ashore told investigators that the S.S. Clifton sank very quickly and that the sailors had no time to get off the ship, or launch lifeboats.
The exact cause of her sinking was never determined, and her final resting place at the bottom of Lake Huron has remained a mystery for nearly a century.