Unusual Collision Sparks Investigation on Lake Superior

By: Sam Watanuki | Published: Jun 10, 2024

Early on June 8, 2024, the 689-foot bulk carrier Michipicoten collided with an underwater object in Lake Superior.

The incident caused the ship to take on water, prompting immediate action from the US Coast Guard. This unusual collision has sparked a thorough investigation by US and Canadian authorities.

Initial Response

According to a press release, at 6:53 a.m. on June 8, the US Coast Guard received a distress report from the Michipicoten. The ship, carrying taconite, was southwest of Isle Royale when it started flooding.

U.S. Coast Guard 45-foot (14 m) Response Boat Medium (RB-M)

Source: U.S. Coast Guard/Wikipedia

The Coast Guard swiftly responded to the emergency, ensuring the safety of the crew and stabilizing the situation.

Evacuation and Safety Measures

Following the collision, half of the ship’s 22-person crew was evacuated as a precaution. Thankfully, no injuries were reported.

Michipicoten ship carrier on Lake Superior


The remaining crew worked to manage the flooding while awaiting further assistance. The ship’s condition was closely monitored to prevent further damage.

Michipicoten's Journey

The Michipicoten departed from Two Harbors, Minnesota, on June 7, 2024, and was en route to Thunder Bay, Ontario.

A sunrise over a large lake in the summer froma rocky beach

Source: Wikimedia Commons

This routine journey apparently took an unexpected turn, leading to the current investigation. Understanding the ship’s route will likely be a factor in determining the cause of the collision.

Investigating the Cause

Authorities from both the US Coast Guard and Transport Canada are conducting marine casualty investigations.

Map of the United States with a magnifying glass laying on top

Source: Freepik

They aim to determine whether the hull damage was caused by running aground, hitting a fixed or floating object, or a possible hull failure. The findings will be crucial in preventing future incidents.

Ship's Status in Thunder Bay

As of this writing, the Michipicoten is anchored in Thunder Bay, Ontario. The ship will remain there until Canadian authorities deem it safe to dock.

Thunder Bay (from Mount McKay), Ontario, Canada

Source: P199/Wikipedia

This waiting period allows for a thorough assessment of the vessel’s condition and the surrounding area.


Crew’s Role in the Incident

The crew of the Michipicoten played a major role in managing the situation. Their quick response and coordination with the US Coast Guard ensured that the incident did not escalate further.

An image of a small search and rescue ship at sea

Source: Freepik

Their efforts highlight the importance of training and preparedness in maritime operations.


Navigational Channels Examined

Lorne Thomas, the external affairs division chief for the Ninth Coast Guard District, stated there was no indication that navigable channels were obstructed.

Lake Superior nautical map

Source: Nautical Charts Online

This information will be essential for investigators as they analyze the ship’s path and possible external factors contributing to the collision.


Taconite Cargo Explained

The Michipicoten was carrying taconite, a low-grade iron ore used in steelmaking.

Taconite from the Precambrian of the Mesabi Iron Range in Minnesota, USA.

Source: James St. John/Wikimedia Commons

Understanding the ship’s cargo helps provide context for the investigation, as the weight and distribution of the load could influence the vessel’s stability and response to underwater obstacles.


Historical Context of Lake Superior Incidents

Lake Superior, the largest of the Great Lakes, has a history of shipwrecks and maritime incidents.

After 80 Years, This 1940s Shipwreck Surfaces in Lake Superior

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Learning from past events can help prevent future collisions and ensure safer navigation moving forward.


Implications for Future Navigation

The outcome of the investigation will likely impact future maritime practices in the Great Lakes.

Snow-covered shores of Lake Superior at Grand Portage National Monument, Minnesota in winter.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Authorities may implement new safety measures or adjust existing protocols to enhance navigational safety. Ultimately, the continued goal is to mitigate risks and ensure the safe passage of vessels.


Awaiting Answers

As the investigation continues, officials and maritime experts await the final conclusions.

A photograph of people carrying out an investigation

Source: Freepik

The findings will provide valuable insights into the causes of the collision and the necessary steps to prevent similar incidents.