As the S.S. Arlington, a Canadian ship carrying wheat across Lake Superior, started to sink in stormy weather on May 1, 1940, its crew clambered into a lifeboat and then gazed upon a strange sight.
There, across the stormy waters, was their captain, Frederick Burke, known as Tatey Bug, waving to them from the Arlington’s deck, moments before he went under with his ship.
The odd behavior of the captain, a solitary figure who was left alone after his men escaped, remains a mystery. And it is likely that an explanation, like the ship itself, will never surface, according to researchers at the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society, which announced on Monday that the Arlington had been found off the coast of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
“The question is whether he was saying, ‘Hey, hold the lifeboat’ or waving goodbye,” said Dan Fountain, a researcher who volunteers with the historical society and first detected the abnormality in the lake floor that led to the discovery of the Arlington last year.
Hundreds of ships have sunk in the Great Lakes, imperiled by stormy waters as they crossed with cargo. Many of the wrecks have been found over the years, slowly coming into view from the murky depths with the help of sonar or satellite technology.
As with the Arlington, the wrecks can be seen, but the details of the ships’ final moments are often never to be discovered.
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