This peaceful view of the Norman’s bow, resting on its port side, suggests the speed with which the vessel sank. In less than three minutes after colliding with the Jack, the Norman foundered and quickly settled to the bottom of Thunder Bay.
The Norman’s yawl boat, or ship’s boat, would have been used for crew members to go to shore when the freighter was moored away from the dock, or as a lifeboat for shipwreck survivors. Ironically, in August of 1894, less than a year before the freighter sank, the owners of the Norman were fined for the absence of life boats.
Hundreds of wrecks, broken like the Norman, lay at the bottom of what is known as Shipwreck Alley. Thousands of Great Lakes vessel engaged in interlake traffic had to sail through this high-traffic area, made treacherous by Thunder Bay’s wicked weather and shallow shoals.
The Norman was built to keep up with the growing demand for iron ore in Great Lakes industrial centers. A triple-expansion, 1200 horsepower engine, powered by two 14-foot scotch boilers, made sure the bulk freighter could indeed keep up with the demand.
This viewpoint illustrates the Norman’s sleek fantail and various configurations of steel plating. Due to revolutionary ship construction in steel towards the end of the nineteenth century, ships could be built longer, stronger, and lighter than their wooden predecessors.
The position of the rudder, all the way to starboard, confirms the contemporary newspaper account that the "captain of the Norman had his wheel put hard aport" just moments before the fateful collision.
A propeller blade peeks out of the accumulated mud and clay on the bottom.
Eight hatch covers hint at the sheer size of this early lake freighter, built to carry ore from the iron-rich hills of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The Norman had an impressive hold capacity of 1,870 net tons but was north bound at the time of sinking and thus empty.
The 'bumps' seen in this image are a covering of invasive quagga mussels. Invasive zebra mussels were introduced to the Great Lakes in the 1980s via ballast water from ocean going ships. Quagga mussels are a close cousin, but can survive in much greater depths than zebra mussels. These prolific filter feeders heavily colonize four of the five Great Lakes and have had enormous negative effects on the ecosystem.