History Channel crew tapes locally for program on 1929 ferry sinking
Ludington Daily News
MANISTEE — Deep sea detectives from the History Channel’s show
“Deep Sea Detectives” turned their attention to Lake Michigan
recently, visiting Manistee, Ludington and Grand Haven to shoot
footage for an upcoming show focusing on the sinking of the
carferry Milwaukee during a storm Oct. 22, 1929.
The crew arrived in Michigan Tuesday afternoon aboard the
carferry S.S. Badger, working during the four-hour trip between
Manitowoc and Ludington to interview Captain Dean Hobbs and chief
engineer Chuck Cart.
Lynda Daugherty, director of media relations for Lake Michigan
Carferry, owner of the Badger, said the production crew,
including show hosts Ritchie Kohler and John Chatterton, learned
about the history of the Badger, which was built in 1952, and
about the history of Great Lakes shipping from Hobbs. She said
they also focused on what the Badger currently offers as the last
link to the history of carferry service across Lake Michigan.
“It was a wonderful opportunity for us,” Daugherty said about the
chance to be included in the television show, which she said is
scheduled to air in January 2006. “They seemed genuinely
interested in and intrigued about the Badger.
“Some said they want to come back and take a trip across with
their families,” she said.
Much of that taping was done on location at the carferry S.S.
City of Milwaukee, which is moored in Manistee. The City of
Milwaukee was built in 1930 to replace the Milwaukee, which was
built in 1901 and sank in Lake Michigan off Milwaukee during the
Jed Jaworski, Great Lakes maritime historian and former curator
of the City of Milwaukee, assisted with the taping in Manistee
and said members of Manistee’s U.S. Coast Guard station were also
involved in the production, wearing early 20th Century-styled
clothing while portraying 1929 Coast Guard members who searched
for survivors of the Milwaukee and for clues to its sinking.
Jaworski said 52 people died with the Milwaukee’s sinking, and he
said many of them were area residents. The ferry’s fate was
actually not known until the wreck was discovered in 1974 under
120 feet of water about seven miles north of Milwaukee, Jaworski
He said the 10-person production crew chose the City of Milwaukee
for the show because the ferry, which is a national historic
landmark, was the closest in appearance to the sunken ferry.
“I think this production highlights again how important it is
that we hold on to our maritime heritage here,” Jaworski said.
“The (City of Milwaukee) is a tremendous resource for everyone,
including filmmakers. You can roam the decks without the benefit
of a tour guide and it will still speak to you. When the sinking
scenes were being videotaped and you could see the engine room
crew remaining at their posts down below as the water rushed in…
well, it was chilling.”
According to Jaworski, the Milwaukee was originally built in 1901
as the Manistique Marquette and Northern No.1 and it sailed from
Northport, at the tip of the Leelanau peninsula, to Manistique in
the Upper Peninsula carrying train cars and passengers. It was
purchased by the Grand Trunk Railroad in 1908, renamed Milwaukee
and put on a run from Grand Haven to Milwaukee.
The ship was last seen leaving Milwaukee in the teeth of a
northerly gale at 3 p.m. Oct. 22nd, 1929. One of the few clues to
the fate of the ship was a message case with a note from the
ship’s purser found along the beach on the Michigan shore.
Four people managed to survive the sinking in a lifeboat,
Jaworski said, but they were not discovered until days later and
they had already perished from exposure.
Jaworski said some people believe there was an inherent flaw in
structure or design common to all three carferrys that sank in
the Great Lakes, while other people believe the train cars broke
loose on deck, fatally damaging the ship. He said some other
people attribute the Milwaukee’s sinking to poor seamanship.
The production crew enjoyed their time in Manistee, Jaworski
said, and he quoted the episode’s writer and producer, Rocky
Collins, as saying, “We had a wonderful and very productive time
here. The enduring maritime tradition you have and the pride in
that culture is remarkable, I think it inspired our crew to do
their very best with the show.”
The crew also traveled to Grand Haven and Milwaukee to tape
segments for the show. Jaworski said that filming included dives
to the wreck of the Milwaukee.