One of the most sought-after shipwrecks in recent years has been the RUSSIA, which was finally discovered in Lake Huron during the summer of 2019. While many lovers of lake lore know the story of the RUSSIA, few know the story of her sistership, the JAVA, which foundered off Big Sable Point in 1878. The following newspaper article appeared in the Chicago Inter Ocean on August 20, 1878 describing her loss.
LOSS OF THE “JAVA.”
She Goes Down In Deep Water — The Crew Saved.
Yesterday morning the Inter Ocean received the following from Mackinaw: The propeller JAVA sank at 8:30 yesterday (Sunday) morning off Point Sauble, Lake Michigan. Total loss. Starboard coupling broke. Crew all saved; they passed here this morning of the steamer KERSHAW, going to Detroit.
Later in the day a dispatch was received from Mr. Ensign, of the firm of Ensign & Holt, Buffalo. the proprietors of the Commercial Line of steamers, to which the JAVA belonged, confirming the disaster. Dispatches were also received from the Inter Ocean’s correspondents in Detroit and Buffalo. Messrs. Atkins & Beckwith, the agents of the line in Chicago, of course have their private advices, as also did the underwriters. The cause of the disaster, as generally understood, was the breaking of the shaft a short distance from the wheel, thus opening her stern so that nothing could be done to stay the flow of water. That the entire crew escaped is a matter of congratulation. Going down in such deep water as the steamer did, of course she and her cargo are total losses.
The cargo consisted of 7,300 barrels of salt, consigned to Eikens & Wheeler of Chicago, and insured in the Orient Mutual for $5656. There was also on board sixty tons of fine merchandise, consigned to F.L. Pope, of Chicago, and 200 tons of fine merchandise consigned to Milwaukee; twenty-five tons of parlor stoves consigned to Sherman S. Jewwtt, of Chicago, and $2,500 worth of household furniture consigned to a Chicago party not named, besides sundries. The Traders Insurance Company have $2,000 on merchandise, but most of the other stuff in probably uninsured.
Captain Fred L. Pope was in command, and his numerous friends sympathize with him in his disaster, though, of course, all know that it was no fault of his.
The JAVA has been unlucky from the first day she came out. This is explained by the “croakers” who say she was launched on Friday. But as it happens, she was not launched on Friday. It will be remembered that the JAVA sank Captain Eyster’s schooner CAPE HORN, and that she sunk herself by striking at the Lime Kiln Crossing. Captain Dodge was then in command. She has been in numerous other scrapes, and only last trip broke a wheel on the way down, and had to be towed through.
Many of the iron steamers on the lake, have been wooded over, but the JAVA is not one of them.
The following article appeared in the Detroit Post & Tribune on Wednesday, August 21, 1878, further describing the disaster.
THE LOST JAVA. – All day yesterday, and until early last evening, eyes were strained towards the bend at Belle Isle, in constant expectation that they would behold the steamer KERSHAW, on board of which were the officers and crew of the ill-fated JAVA. At about 6 o’clock she arrived abreast of the city, and rounded to only long enough to allow Capt. Pope to come ashore, when, after a short closeting with Mr. Chesebrough, the agent of the Commercial Line here, he left by rail for Buffalo, the entire crew of the JAVA, some 25 in number, will be taken to Buffalo on the KERSHAW. Capt. Pope, as is natural, is quite cast down at his unfortunate experience. He is an old sailor, having been in the Commercial Line about five years, but his friends know him best as the popular commander of the ARAXES when she was in her palmy days. He made a statement substantially as follows: The JAVA left Bay City on Saturday, August 17, with 7,000 barrels of salt, bound for Chicago. Everything went well until Sunday morning, at about 8 o’clock. At the time the wind was blowing rather strong, and the boat was going along at a moderate speed. Suddenly, without any warning whatever, something of a serious nature manifested itself, but could not tell
whether it was a log in the wheel or what was the matter. A hasty examination showed that water was rushing into the hold somewhere about the stern, but could not tell where, with such velocity that it was impossible to stop it. Soon saw that the vessel must sink, as she was filling rapidly, and ordered the boats down, and had just pushed clear when the main deck went under. Ten minutes afterwards, and just 30 minutes after the first notice that something was wrong the JAVA went down, out of sight, in about 200 feet of water. Were in the small boats but an hour or so, when the schooner J.P. MARCH hove near and picked them up. The same afternoon the steamship KERSHAW came along and took them on board bound for Buffalo. All the books and papers belonging to the boat were saved, but the officers and crew saved but little. Capt. Pope loses a fine library, a well as much other valuable property.
It will never be known exactly what caused the boat to sink. Theories may be given, but they will not throw any light on the subject. She went down stern first, and that is all the proof than can be had as to where the cause that led to her sinking was located. She was a twin-screw boat, and the shaft on one side may have broken off somewhere above the stern pipe, letting the wheel drop out, or the wheel may have moved up on the shaft in some unaccountable manner, and the blade stove a hole in her side. The statement that she had no bulkhead is untrue. She had two, dividing the hull into three compartments, each being water tight. The boat’s exact original cost was $165,000, but probably her mate could be produced now at a saving of at least $50,000. It is possible that this disaster may result in a long-winded discussion among marine men on the merits and demerits of iron boats.