The Thomas Wilson

The Thomas Wilson
The Thomas Wilson
Courtesy Public Domain

The Thomas Wilson met her unusual fate on June 7, 1902—a calm, sunny day—just outside of the port of Duluth. With some of her hatches still open, the Thomas Wilson headed out of port, passing the inbound steamer George Hadley. Confusion over where the Hadley was to dock—the port of Duluth or the port of Superior—allowed the two ships to pass too close together. The captain of the Wilson, unaware of the nearby Hadley, ordered his ship to turn. But the Hadley took evasive action in the same direction, and the two ships actually turned into each other. After ramming into the Wilson, the Hadley pulled out of the wreckage and continued on its way toward Chicago. The Wilson tipped to port, righted itself, and then began to sink at its bow. Within three minutes the stern plunged under and the Wilson sank. Nine members of her twenty-man crew were lost.

The crash resulted in these new rules for Duluth Harbor:

  • Ships may not leave the harbor with open hatches.
  • Ships may not pull out from another ship following a collision.
  • When another vessel is sighted, a pilot may not carry out any order given by the captain without first calling the captain’s attention to the other vessel.
  • All ships must be equipped with signal systems to all parts of the vessel to warn of danger.
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