Lake Superior Shipwrecks
Post-Depositional Impacts

When the Madeira was wrecked against Gold Rock, the storm battered vessel sank in several pieces. At the time of her loss, the Pittsburgh Steamship Company abandoned attempts to salvage the Madeira. Although the general location of the wreck was known by local fishermen, the site remained undisturbed until discovered by members of a Duluth diving club, the "Frigid Frogs," in the summer of 1955.

In July 1960, the Duluth-based salvage firm Schwalen-Opheim Corporation purchased the wreck. Over the next few years, the firm made intermittent attempts at salvaging the hull for scrap. In the fall of 1972, they initiated a systematic salvage effort, working off a barge on the surface, and from there transporting the chunks of steel to a rail system erected on the shore. The quantity of material removed during this operation is unknown. The salvage effort was most likely confined to the area of the bow, however, as divers reportedly worked primarily in only 20 feet of water, cutting the hull into 2-ton chunks. Two of these chunks are on display at the Split Rock Trading Post, a nearby tourist stop, along with one of the ship's bow anchors. The Trading Post also has on display one of the Madeira's wheels and the steam gauge. The Madeira's other wheel is displayed at the S.S. Meteor Museum in West Superior, Wisc.

Fig. 1 Fig. 2

Fig. 1: Hull sections and one of the Madeira's two bow anchors on display outside the Split Rock Trading Post, in Split Rock, MN; MHS/SHPO Collections
Fig. 2: Artifacts from the Madeira are displayed at the S.S. Meteor Museum in West Superior, WI; MHS/SHPO Collections

The wreck of the Madeira is easily accessed from the shore nearby. A well-worn path from a roadside parking area off the lakeside highway guides approximately 1,000 divers to the site annually. The Madeira's heaviest diving season is summer, although it is visited intermittently at other times during the year. Given the traffic at the site, most of the smaller artifacts associated with the ship have been removed from the wreck and surrounding area over the past 35 years.

|--Madeira-- |--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--|