SS Emperor


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SS Emperor cutting ice as it arrives into port
SS EMPEROR cutting ice as it arrives into port.

Great Lakes Maritime Collection, Alpena County George N. Fletcher Public Library, 218616_218626_F


Newspaper stories at the time of Emperor's loss compared the high shipwreck concentration at the northeastern end of Isle Royale to Keweenaw Point and Whitefish Point, which had been known as the "Graveyard of the Great Lakes" (Port Arthur News Chronicle, June 4, 1947). Most of the wrecks that occurred at Keweenaw Point were ships driven ashore during storms. The wrecks on Whitefish Point have been due primarily to vessels converging into the narrow channel leading out of the Upper Lake, and then colliding, usually during fog. The Isle Royale wrecks have been principally attributed to a "combination of storms and mistaking the travel routes, the latter, in former days particularly, being due to magnetic disturbances which sometimes affect the steamer compasses in that area" (Port Arthur News Chronicle, June 4, 1947).

The loss of Emperor was the worst disaster on the Great Lakes since the year 1942, when three incidents were recorded: 25 drowned in a launch in Georgian Bay, 14 elsewhere in a tug, and 18 in a barge in Lake Erie. Emperor's demise was the first event on Lake Superior resulting in a loss of life since 1940, when the steamer Arlington went down in a gale with the loss of one crew member. The worst year on Lake Superior prior to the Emperor wreck was 1927, when Kamloops disappeared in a storm with 22 crew aboard (Houghton Daily Mining Gazette, June 4, 1947). The worst year since the turn of the century on the Great Lakes was 1913, when a 2-day November storm wrecked 13 vessels, and 240 people drowned. It was estimated that, since the turn of the century, more than 100 ships have gone down on the Great Lakes, and more than 2,000 seamen have lost their lives (Winnipeg Free Press, June 4, 1947).

Emperor was the most recent large ship to be wrecked on Isle Royale.


The Story of the SS Emperor

SS Emperor in its early years with dark colored color scheme


Origin and Original Dimensions

SS Emperor breaking ice as it arrives in port

Operational History

Years of Service

pilothouse roof and mast visible after the SS Emperor wreck on Canoe Rocks

Wreck Event

Incident and Survivor Accounts


Shipwreck Site

The wreck is basically intact, with the bow area showing most damage. Stern area features an intact mast rudder/prop, engine room, and numerous cabins. Buoy on bow attached at stern in 25 feet; buoy on stern attached on deck at 100 feet.

Map of Emperor Site

artist sketch of the SS Emperor shipwreck on lake bottom at Canoe Rocks

NPS / J.L. Livingston


Quick Facts

SS Emperor Quick Facts
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Last updated: November 24, 2020

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