Benjamin Franklin

Parts of the Benjamin Franklin ship on the ocean bottom
Almost immediately after running aground on Thunder Bay Island, the side-wheel steamer Benjamin Franklin began breaking apart. Both paddlewheel shafts are located on the lake bottom in less than 30 feet of water. The iron shaft, about 10 feet in length, ends with a 3-foot diameter circular hub. The backside of the hub is fluted, and still contains remnants of the wooden spokes for the paddlewheel. A steam valve sits upright in front of the hub.

Vessel Type: Motor: paddle wheeler

GPS Location: N45°01.934' W83°11.529'

Depth: 15 Feet

Wreck Length: 135 Feet

Beam: 19 Feet

Gross Tonnage: 231

Cargo: None

Launched: 1842 by Gilman Applebee in Buffalo, New York

Wrecked: October 8, 1850

Mooring Buoy Data

Description: In 1850 the paddle wheeler Benjamin Franklin ran aground at Thunder Bay Island. Not much of the wreck is still together rather, it is quite scattered. No hull sections have yet been discovered, though some machinery and hardware are scattered and can be found in depths ranging from ten to 55 feet of water. One intact and two partially intact cylindrical boilers are located in deeper water. A rudder and post can be found nearer to the shore. The two paddle wheel shafts, one with intact cast iron hub still containing portions of the wooden spokes, have an interesting detail: they are slightly different in form, reflecting the replacement of one of the wheels at Cleveland, Ohio.

Great Lakes Maritime Collection digital archive:

Ship Benjamin Franklin enrollment form
Ship Benjamin Franklin’s enrollment form. Image courtesy of Great Lakes Maritime Collection, Alpena County George N. Fletcher Public Library
Ship Benjamin Franklin wreck site
The destructive forces of Lake Huron are evident at the Benjamin Franklin wreck site. Waves and ice action, together with strong currents running over the shallow water reef have all but destroyed the once proud paddlewheel steamer. The paddlewheel shafts lay partly buried in a tangle of steam machinery and pipes, engine parts, and cast iron boiler fragments.