For the last few decades the four-ton ship anchor from the 430-foot iron ore carrier ‘Madeira’ shipwreck has been sitting in a corner of the parking lot of a souvenir shop near Split Rock Lighthouse. The anchor had originally been raised from the 1905 shipwreck in the 1960’s.
Several years ago the souvenir shop burned down and when the land recently came up for sale the Great Lakes Shipwreck Preservation Society (GLSPS) worked with the land’s owner who donated the anchor, a bollard from the ship’s deck, and a section of the storm-twisted hull of the ship to the GLSPS. GLSPS offered the anchor on long-term loan to the Minnesota Historical Society and we agreed that displaying the anchor in front of the visitor center at Split Rock made a lot of sense. After all, the 1905 storm (known locally as The ‘Mataafa” Blow) that sank the ‘Madeira’ and several other ships was the prime reason for the construction of Split Rock Light Station in 1909. This last weekend divers from GLSPS, volunteering their time and equipment, along with Split Rock Lighthouse Historic Site staff, moved the anchor to the service area of the historic site.
Next summer, in time for the centennial of the lighthouse and the 105th anniversary of the storm that sank the ‘Madeira’, the anchor will be placed on display along with interpretive information on the ship, the storm, and the anchor in front of the Split Rock Lighthouse Visitor Center. For any who know the fabled story of the wreck of the ’Madeira’ and the heroic rescue of nine of the ten crewmen this makes a lot of sense. The shipwreck took place against Gold Rock Point, the next point of land to the northeast of the lighthouse, and it remains a very popular dive site.
Lake Superior divers in general, and the Great Lakes Shipwreck Preservation Society in particular, have done a lot in the last several years to protect the shipwrecks in the big lake. The GLSPS should be commended for their PIB program (Put It Back) which returns many artifacts to shipwrecks that over the years have found thier way into divers’ basements and garages. This puts the artifacts back where they can have more meaning to divers and enhance the wrecks as the cultural resources that they are.