Ships & Shipwrecks: Stories from the Great Lakes

On today’s episode, we’re joined by Richard Gebhart to discuss his exciting book Ships & Shipwrecks: Stories from the Great Lakes. Thanks for tuning in.

From the day that French explorer Robert Cavelier de La Salle launched the Griffin in 1679 to the 1975 sinking of the celebrated Edmund Fitzgerald, thousands of commercial ships have sailed on the vast and perilous waters of the Great Lakes. In a harbinger of things to come, on the return leg of its first trip in late summer 1679, the Griffin disappeared and has never been seen again. Records from the centuries since show that an alarming number of shipwrecks have occurred on the Great Lakes. If vessels that wrecked but were later repaired and returned to service are included, the number certainly swells into the thousands. Most did not mysteriously vanish like the Griffin. Instead, they suffered the occupational hazards of every lake boat: collisions, groundings, strands, fires, boiler explosions, and capsizes. Many of these disasters took the lives of crews and passengers.

The fearsome wrath of the storms that brew over the Great Lakes has challenged and defeated some of the staunchest vessels constructed in the shipyards of port cities along the U.S. and Canadian lakeshores. In Ships & Shipwrecks: Stories from the Great Lakes, my Richard Gebhart tells the tales of some of these ships and their captains and crews, from their launches to their sad demises—or sometimes, their celebrated retirements. This volume is a must-read for anyone intrigued by the maritime history of the Great Lakes, and I’m so excited for the chance to talk with its author today.

Richard Gebhard was director of the White River Light Station lighthouse museum from 1975 to 1980. He has also authored numerous articles of historical interest and essays for journals and newsletters of Great Lakes historical societies.

Richard Gebhart’s book, Ships & Shipwrecks: Stories from the Great Lakes is available at msupress.org and other fine booksellers. You can connect with the press on Facebook and @msupress on Twitter, where you can also find me @kurtmilb.

The MSU Press podcast is a joint production of MSU Press and the College of Arts & Letters at Michigan State University. Thanks to the team at MSU Press for helping to produce this podcast. Our theme music is “Coffee” by Cambo. 

Michigan State University occupies the ancestral, traditional, and contemporary Lands of the Anishinaabeg–Three Fires Confederacy of Ojibwe, Odawa and Potawatomi people. The University resides on Land ceded in the 1819 Treaty of Saginaw.

Thank you all so much for listening, and never give up books.
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