Daily Event for September 9, 2010

The Andaste, a whaleback steamer built in 1892 sailed from Ferrysburg, Michigan on September 9, 1929, she would never make port again. For some time the Andaste had been carrying gravel from Michigan to Chicago for the new road that that was being built along the shore, Lake Shore Drive. She was also a well known vessel and her master, Albert L. Anderson, knew the lake as good as anyone. He was 64 years old and had been on the lakes for forty of those years, holding a masters license for the last 30.

Andaste had loaded gravel at Ferrysburg bound for the Construction Materials Company in South Chicago, Illinois. At about 9 p.m. she was sighted passing the Coast Guard station at Grand Haven, Michigan from there she sailed into history. A powerful gale met the ship soon after she made her way out into the lake, but as she carried no radio equipment there was no distress signal sent so what happened onboard is known only to those who were lost in her.

The news of the Andaste and her crew made the papers on the 12th, and soon was front page news all over the country. The Coast Guard mounted a sea and air search, but found nothing. Several private ships also searched the area including the President of the Zenith Radio Corp. Eugene F. McDonald and his yacht Mizpah, but again nothing was found. Her owners, the Andaste Steamship Company in Cleveland, Ohio at first stated that they felt that Andaste had just been blown off course or had taken to an unknown port for safety to ride out the storm. However company vice-president A. E. M. Schneider stated on Sept. 13 that he felt that the ship was lost.

Also on Sept. 13 two straw hats were found floating 30 miles off Kenosha, Wisconsin giving hope that at least some of the men had taken to the lifeboats and perhaps survived, this was based on the fact that the hats were not waterlogged and it was considered that they had not been in the water for very long. There was however no evidence that the hats had belonged to anyone of Andaste and any connection to the disaster was soon put aside, but search efforts were given a little new hope and they continued.

Late on Sept. 13 the tug Bertha G. pulled into Grand Haven and her master, George van Hall reported that he had found wreckage about 15 miles out to sea, forty miles south of Grand Haven, the wreckage he recovered was identified as belonging to Andaste by two of her crew, George Evans and Joe Collins, who both stayed behind and were spared the fate of their shipmates. Part of the wreckage was the door to Anderson's cabin. The tug went back out to search for more wreckage and to try and find the bodies.

The next day the worst was confirmed when bodies and wreckage began to wash between Holland and Saugatuck, Michigan. The first body found was that of 2nd Engineer Ralph Wiley, it is assumed that he died of exposure since he was found with two life preservers on him, later some boys found another life preserver with the name Andaste on it. Over the next few days many more bodies would be found and a lot more wreckage, including the pilot house. Many of the men were wearing life preservers which led investigators to surmise that the crew knew the ship was going to founder. Many believe that her cargo had shifted and that was the cause of her loss. In all fourteen bodies were washed up on the Michigan shore over the next several days including that of Anderson, he was found with no life preserver and with several cuts on his head.

Some days after the disaster a piece of wood was found, on it the last words of Albert Anderson;
"This is the worst storm I have ever seen. We can not hold out long. I hope to God out distress signals have been seen."

Other reports of the day had a different quote;
"This is the worst storm I have ever seen. We can't stay up long. Hope to God we are saved.

Signed A. A.

It was determined that most of the men had died of exposure and the Coast Guard pointed out that the company (Construction Materials) had failed to notify them that Andaste was overdue, they claimed that had they been notified of this fact that they could have possibly saved some the crew. Andaste was due at Chicago on Sept. 10 and the Coast Guard was not notified until Sept. 12 and this delay, they said, was partly responsible for the deaths of the crew. However in their argument they fail to point out that even though they (the Coast Guard) mounted a large search they did not find anything, and that only when the bodies of the crew and the wreckage washed up on shore was the fate of the ship known.

Everyone onboard perished, but the ship's mascot survived, Queenie, a dog was not on the ship. Queenie apparently did not like to take to the sea, but she was always there to greet the ship when she docked in Chicago. She was there that day waiting for the ship. When it did not arrive Queenie became "noticeably agitated" as if she knew the ship was in trouble. She paced the dock at the Chicago company for several days after the disaster.
© 2010 Michael W. Pocock

Andaste, date and location unknown.

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