Lore museum honors crew of Cedarville

The front page of the Advance told of the tragic story of the sinking.
The front page of the Advance told of the tragic story of the sinking.

by Angie Asam–Staff Writer

With a heavy load of limestone from the Calcite Quarry 51 years ago the Cedarville was bound for Gary, Indiana when heavy fog in the Straits of Mackinac altered the ships course, ultimately ending in tragedy.

Saturday the Great Lakes Lore Maritime Museum will hold a bell- tolling ceremony in memory of the men who lost their lives that day. Museum director and survivor of the sinking, Dave Erickson, will give a brief history of that fateful day before the bell is tolled once for each man who lost his life that day and since the sinking. The ceremony begins at 2 p.m. and bell ringers are needed.

May 7, 1965 loaded with more than 14 tons of limestone, the ship was a mile east of the Mackinac Bridge when heavy fog greatly reduced visibility. Seeing the Norwegian SS Topdalsfjord on the radar the two ships communicated with one another from a mile away.

The captains were discussing how the ships would pass each other with the Norwegian ship planning to pass the Cedarville on the starboard side. Captain Martin Joppich intended for the Cedarville to cross the bow of the Topdalsfjord but the message was not received and the Norwegian vessel continued its course colliding with the Cedarville at hatch #7 on the port side.

Above the waterline the collision caused some damage but below the water was a large hole created in the hull of the ship. Within a few minutes the Cedarville began to list to the port side.

Water was pumped into the starboard side ballast tanks in an attempt to counteract the water coming in the port side as Joppich planned to run the ship aground and prevent it from sinking. As the ship moved towards land, the weight of the water forced the bow of the boat down and the ship began listing to the starboard side eventually rolling over before sinking.

Ten of the 35 men aboard the ship did not make it home that day. Survivors were picked up by the German freighter MV Weissenburg and transferred to the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Mackinaw.

The Cedarville lies in about 110 feet of water in the Straits of Mackinac Shipwreck Preserve. The highest point of the hull is around 35 feet below the surface and the cabins of the ship are at about 75 feet under the waterline.

Built in 1927 the Cedarville was launched as the SS A.F. Harvey and entered service for the Pittsburg Steamship Company, a division of U.S. Steel.

In 1956 the ship was transferred to the Bradley Transportation Division and was renamed. The 588-foot freighter is the third largest ship lost on the Great Lakes behind the Edmund Fitzgerald and sister ship Carl D. Bradley.