Joseph S. Fay

Two divers swim above a shipwreck
Snorkelers observe the massive site of Joseph S. Fay from the surface. Photo: Shawn Parkin

Vessel Type: Motor: bulk freighter

GPS Location: N45°29.317’ W83° 54.600’

Depth: 17 feet

Wreck Length: 216 feet

Beam: 34 feet

Gross Tonnage: 1221

Cargo: Iron Ore

Launched: 1871 by Quayle and Martin at Cleveland, Ohio

Wrecked: October 19, 1905

Mooring Buoy Data


"I have sailed for seven years…but Thursday night was my worst experience”
– George Rinley, surviving crew member

On October 19, 1905, the wooden freighter Joseph S. Fay set sail from Escanaba, Michigan, in calm, clear weather. Destined for Cleveland, Ohio, Joseph S. Fay towed the barge D.P. Rhodes. As the ships sailed down Lake Huron, both heavily loaded with iron ore, the weather changed dramatically. Winds exceeded 60 miles an hour, and Joseph S. Fay struggled to maintain a steady course as waves crashed over the decks. Unable to steer, Joseph S. Fay and D.P. Rhodes were at the mercy of Lake Huron. The towline to the barge was cut in a desperate attempt to save Joseph S. Fay. The storm drove D.P. Rhodes ashore, but the storm was still too fierce for Joseph S. Fay. After a massive wave washed Joseph S. Fay’s mate overboard to his death, the remaining crew escaped in a lifeboat as the freighter quickly sank.

Today, the broken remains of Joseph S. Fay are a fascinating archaeological and recreational site. Most of the wreck is located in 19 feet of clear water only 300 yards from shore, ideal for divers, snorkelers, and paddlers to explore. If you want to stay dry, look at the section of the wreck located on shore.

Joseph S. Fay is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Great Lakes Maritime Collection digital archive:

Two snorkelers swim above a shipwreck
Two snorkelers explore the stern of Joseph S. Fay. Photo: Shawn Parkin
a snorkelers swims above a shipwreck
A snorkeler approaches the machinery at the stern of Joseph S. Fay. Photo: Shawn Parkin
site plan for Joseph S. Fay
Photomosaic site plan of Joseph S. Fay Image: Indiana University
wood from a shipwreck on a shore
Beached wreckage from Joseph S. Fay