N44° 58.099 W83° 11.991
MAX DEPTH: 100ft / 30.5m
LENGTH: 296ft / 90m

Grecian Wreck

Lake Huron - Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary

  • Type: Bulk Freighter (1891 - 1906)
  • Wreck Length: 296ft / 90m
  • Depth: 100ft / 30.5m

In June 1906, the Great Lakes freighter Grecian struck a reef in northern Lake Huron, tearing a hole in the bottom. While being towed to Detroit for repair, the damaged vessel flooded and sank near Thunder Bay. Today, as one of the most popular recreational dive sites in the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, the Grecian rests on an even keel at 100 feet below the treacherous waves that betrayed it over one hundred years ago.

Wreck History

Launched in 1891, the steel-hulled Grecian symbolizes an era of unprecedented industrial growth in America. Between 1890 and 1920, industrial giants like John. D. Rockefeller created steel corporations that required vast Great Lakes fleets to carry iron ore, the main raw material used to make steel. The Grecian served J. P. Morgan’s enormous U.S. Steel Corporation, the nation’s first billion-dollar firm.

The freighter also reflects a period of dramatic change in shipbuilding technology throughout the nineteenth century. The use of steel revolutionized ship construction during the Grecian’s era, as builders began to choose it over wood to produce stronger yet lighter hulls. In 1886, the 324-foot steamer Spokane became the first steel vessel on the Great Lakes. Just three years later, construction began on the powerful 296-foot Grecian and five sister ships. Newspapers heralded these new freighters as “fast steel flyers.” A marvel of efficiency for the time, the Grecian made an impressive 35 trips and carried 93,000 tons of iron ore in 1896--and did all of this for just 23 cents per mile in fuel costs.

The prospect of raising the Grecian attracted at least one creative salvage company. In 1909, the Staud Canalon Salvage Company attempted to refloat the nearly 300-foot Grecian by chaining to it four canalons--huge steel tanks that could be pumped with air. Plans for raising the massive freighter were eventually abandoned after a canalon burst while positioned along side the wreck. Today, visitors can still find a huge air tank alongside the wreck, a remnant of the failed attempt to raise the ship.

Diving the Wreck

Sitting upright in 100 feet of water, the Grecian’s intact bow and stern reveal the ship’s sleek, “fast flyer” design. The stern rises nearly 30 feet off the lake bottom, making for an excellent place to start a dive. The ship’s triple-expansion engine is easily visible as are the boilers that fed it steam. Roughly half way along the wreck’s length, divers will find the ship cut in half, making for easy penetration below decks and exploration of machinery spaces. Continuing forward, divers can dip down to 90 or 100 feet while making their way toward Grecian’s dramatic intact bow, complete with mammoth windlass. Details of early steel ship construction are evident in the collapsed and exposed mid-section.

To protect the wreck form anchor damage and make for safer more enjoyable diving, the sanctuary maintains seasonal moorings at the Grecian’s bow and stern. This makes possible a 'one-way' trip along the 300-foot long wreck, allowing divers to descend on one mooring and ascend on another.