Lake Superior Shipwrecks
Present Description

The well preserved wreck of the wooden-hulled steamer Hesper is located in approximately 30 to 48 feet of water. The wreck lies about halfway down the west breakwall of the Silver Bay Harbor and angles out towards the northeast. Its hull has split apart at the turn of the bilge; both its port and starboard sides situated adjacent and parallel to its ceiling-covered hull bottom. The forward end of its disarticulated port side is buried by large boulders of the Silver Bay jetty. The forward ends of both the base of the hull and the starboard side lie immediately adjacent to the boulders.

Photograph of Silver Bay 1 Photograph of Silver Bay 2
Fig. 1: Hesper site looking south at Silver Bay; MHS/SHPO Collections
Fig. 2: Hesper site, west breakwater of Silver Bay; MHS/SHPO Collections

The flat base of the hull is comprised of the totally intact triple frame timbers composed of floors and futtocks which extend to the turn of the bilge. They have broken away from each side at the butt ends of their double futtocked frames. Room and space of the triple frames is 22 inches, the moulded dimension is 16.5 inches, the sided dimensions are 6 inches, 6 inches and 12 inches. The most prominent feature of the hull base is the large keelson which runs almost the entire length, ending at the aft engine mount. The keelson is composed of two parallel timbers which are each 14.5 inches moulded and 14.75 inches sided. A 3/4 inch thick by 14 inch high iron strap is bolted along either side of the keelson and runs its entire length. The base of the hull is covered over its majority by ceiling which is composed of two layers: the upper layer is 1 inch thick by 8 inches wide, the lower layer is 2 inches thick by 12 inches wide. Outer hull planks measure 4.5 inches thick by 12 inches in width.

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

The two hull sides, which are disarticulated from the hull base but which are intact, have similar construction characteristics. They both retain two rows of hanging deck knees and attached deck shelf timbers indicating the former location of the main and cargo decks. The decks no longer exist and were most likely part of the wreckage which washed ashore at the time of sinking. The bulwark rail is present on both hull sides for most of their respective lengths. Iron straps, similar to those which strengthen the keelson, are present on the sides immediately below the hanging knees. The starboard side has a hatch towards the aft while the port side has the remains of its condenser discharge pipe.

Hanging deck knees 1 Details of bulwark 2

Fig. 1: Wooden knees supported deck-beams at ship's side; Ken Merryman, Fridley, MN
Fig. 2: Details of bulwark inside stern; Ken Merryman, Fridley, MN

For the most part, the vessel is clear of wreckage debris except at the bow end, near the jetty. The forward end of the forecastle deck is located here along with various disarticulated timbers and metal debris. At the aft end of the base of the hull is the engine mount, which is composed of a framework of very large timbers from which numerous 2 to 3 foot bolts project. These bolts with their threaded ends obviously were used to hold or mount the vessel's reciprocating engine to the hull. Aft of the mount is the base of the wooden propeller shaft housing. Lying adjacent to the starboard side of the housing on the clay floor of the lake is a capstan. Just aft of the shaft housing is the vessel's iron-reinforced wooden rudder with its tiller still attached. The rudder lies in 48 feet of water; the bow in 30 feet.

|--Hesper-- |--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--|