Whelan
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George J. Whelan
LOCATION: Eastern Lake Erie off Dunkirk, NY, USA
DIVE CHARTER: Osprey Dive Charters. Barcelona, NY
LIES: On port side, inverted. Deck is listing at least 45.
CONDITION: Completely Intact.
DEPTH: 120'-140' [37-43m]
TYPE: Propeller, steel, bulk freight, sandsucker.
BUILT: 1910 at Toledo, Ohio (as the Erwin L. Fisher).
LOST: July 29, 1930 Rolled over during a squall after a cargo shift.
 15 lives lost.
CARGO: Stone.
DIMENSIONS: 220' [67m] Length x 40' [12m] beam x 17' [5m] Draft.
NOTES:
After years of searching, Gary Kozak & Jim Herbert discovered this site October 12, 2005, and the first dive ever on her was conducted Thursday, October 27, 2005  from Jim's boat, the Southwind by Marc Beaudry, Mike Domitrek, Dave Grimm, Dan Kuzdale, Jeff Thompson, Wayne Rush, Pat Wolfe, Dick Yager, and myself. A reporter (John Bonfatti) and photographer (Harry Scull Jr.) from "The Buffalo News" were also on hand to pick up where the paper's original 1930 coverage of the sinking left off (See October 29, 2005 Article: "Shipwreck Brought to Light" ). James Herbert Jr. served as first mate on the expedition. Great thanks to Mr. Kozak and Capt. Herbert for their diligence and the invitation to dive her! Thanks as well to The Buffalo News for the excellent coverage provided, and last, but not least, thanks to Jim Jr. for not dropping my camera, thus enabling me the privilege of capturing these first still images of this shipwreck. Dive two on the Whelan was made on Saturday, October 29. I have included photos from this dive below as well.

Wreck sits on her port side and is rolled over on to her starboard rail along the forecastle. Access to the starboard deck and holds is provided by the considerable height difference between the rail on the fore- and sterncastle decks and the rail on the main deck.  Moderate to heavy zebra mussel infestation present. At the bow, the wheelhouse and bow structure are completely submerged beneath the bottom. 3 of 4 port holes on the forecastle are open (I wonder if this contributed to sinking?). Peering into these, one can see a tangle of planks, lanterns, furniture, and lots of silt... An anchor hangs with its fluke tips sticking above bottom. Peering out across the bottom, numerous pieces of assorted debris can be seen, mostly covered in silt. Just aft and below the Forecastle deck, is a closed hatch, which leads to the cabin area of the forecastle. Continuing aft, a large deck winch hangs from the inverted main deck along with assorted other rigging. The forward hold is wide open. Approximately amidships, there is a series of stairs and a ladder way that lead below deck. At the sterncastle, portions of the cabin remain above the bottom. Several open doors and windows, less glass, to be seen here. Pieces of the lifeboat davit, which (according to photos) originally was mounted above the cabin roof, protrude from the bottom along with some planking. The hull here contains more open portholes and a square, cut-out hatchway less cover. Approximately, 30' [9m] off of the wreck, the inverted  bow of a large, steel lifeboat rises at an angle from the bottom. Several pieces of what I assume is rigging associated with connection to the davits still hang from the inside. At the stern, a large four-bladed prop remains completely above the bottom. The enormous rudder is heeled over to starboard, presumably due to gravity. Overall she appears quite virgin. Lets work to keep her that way. 

Setting aside the excitement of this spectacular find, hopefully we can set a goal to eventually erect some type of marker memorializing the fifteen sailors that lost their lives in the sinking, the majority of which are, more than likely, entombed below decks. The names of those lost -- as reported by The Buffalo Evening News, July 29, 1930: Capt. Thomas J. Waagoe, Michael Emling, Arthur Walters, William Neueseler, Harry Brooks, Arthur Zeck, Thomas Pierce, Jack Stalley,  Ed ? (fireman), Mr. & Mrs. Charles Godfrey, Carl Biechele, Ralph Weis, Ned Dumar, W.P. Longnecker.

 

See Article on Discovery of The George J. Whelan! (Requires "Adobe Reader" Software. See Link Below)
10/27/05: See The Buffalo News Article on the
 History, Sinking, Discovery, and First Dive on the Whelan!

11/22/05 Erie Times News Article: "Ruins of 1930 Shipwreck Found in Lake" (Requires "Adobe Reader" Software. See Link Below)
11/22/05: See Erie Times News Article, "Ruins of 1930 Shipwreck Found in Lake Erie"

February 2006: Lakeland Boating Article: "An Unexpected Discovery"
February 2006: Lakeland Boating Article: "An Unexpected Discovery"

History of the Whelan. (Photo Source: Great Lakes Vessels Database, Historical Collections of the Great lakes, Bowling Green State University.)

Historical Overview

(Above Articles Require Free Adobe Reader Software)
Above Articles Require Adode Reader Software. Click Here for Free Download.


Very Rough Sketch of Site by Jack Papes.
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This page was last updated 11/19/2008 .
Jack Papes. All Rights Reserved.