A diver hovers below the Spangler’s bow. This photo showcases Lake Huron’s typically clear visibility--even at 185 feet. The wreck’s foremast can be seen rising nearly 100 feet off the lake bottom.
One of the Spangler’s two bilge pumps sits as if ready to spring into action. Hand pumps positioned on deck were used to extract water from the bilge, the lowest point in the ship. A length of anchor chain inexplicably lies coiled around it.
This winch provided the necessary mechanical advantage to raise and lower the Spangler’s heavy centerboard. Due to their flat bottoms, the wind that drove Great Lakes schooners forward also pushed them sideways, making it difficult to keep on course. Housed in a watertight box, called the centerboard trunk, the centerboard hung down into the water and slowed sideways movement. The centerboard could be retracted when entering harbors or sailing in the shallow shoals characteristic of Thunder Bay. The two photos, taken five years apart, illustrate the rapid and uninhibited growth of invasive zebra and quagga mussels.
This traditional bilge pump still has the long handle in place that sailors would have pushed and pulled to siphon water out of the bilge. During storms, or on old leaky schooners, crews would pump around the clock as they struggled to get the water out faster than it came in. The pump on deck lifted the water to deck where it spilled overboard. This simple but essential hand pump saved many ships, and many lives.
A classic maritime symbol, the ship’s wheel is still in position on the deck of the Kyle Spangler, as if the helmsman stepped away for just a moment. Such preservation is not unusual for the cold, fresh waters of the Great Lakes.
This view of the stern clearly shows where the helmsman would have stood as he piloted the Spangler from port to port. The shape of a Great Lakes schooner stern, much flatter than their ocean-going counterparts, allowed for increased cargo capacity. On its final voyage, the Kyle Spangler was carrying an impressive 15,000 bushels of corn.
A fixture on almost any waterborne vessel, the binnacle is a container where the compass is placed, generally in convenient view of the helmsman. Often, a lamp was also housed in the binnacle and plate-sized holes were positioned to provide a clear and lighted view of the compass inside.
The fatal damage to the Spangler’s bow is a striking visual reminder of the dangerous sailing conditions on the busy Great Lakes of the nineteenth century. The Spangler’s four-year history is riddled with disaster: it ran ashore in 1857, was dismasted in 1858, and collided with another schooner in the Straits of Mackinac in 1858.