Milwaukee Car Ferry

The Great Car Ferry

On October 22, 1929, a powerful autumn storm hit the Great Lakes. According to legend, the weather looked bad enough that some of the crew of the Milwaukee Car Ferry stayed at the bar rather than boarding the ship scheduled to transport a load of railroad cars from Milwaukee to Muskegon. Tragically for the 52 crew members who did board her, the Milwaukee Car Ferry never made it to Muskegon.

For decades the 325-foot car ferry was lost until she was located in 1972 about 3 miles off from Whitefish Bay. Based upon the damage visible to the seagate, it appears that the gale-force winds rocked the ship, causing the railroad cars she was carrying to leave their tracks and roll into the seagate. The seagate was bent, which allowed water to enter the vessel and sink her.

The Milwaukee Car Ferry is the second largest ship ever lost on Lake Michigan. The railroad cars she was carrying are still aboard, and a small hole cut by divers permits penetration of her engine room. However, the depth of the wreck and its continuing deterioration make diving the Milwaukee rather dangerous.

During the sinking of the Milwaukee Car Ferry, the wheelhouse was sheered off and floated more than 100 feet off her port side. On some days the wheelhouse is visible from the main wreck. At times there is also a line running over to the wheelhouse from the bow. Depth at the wheelhouse is about 124 feet.

Visibility on the Milwaukee Car Ferry is unpredictable. Historically the wreck was known for very poor visibility, but in recent years conditions have been much better with visibility sometimes exceeding 100'. However, this can vary greatly from day to day.

Maximum Depth: 124 feet
Distance to deck: 90 feet
Moorings: Bow and Stern
Dimensions: 338' x 56' x 19'5"
Skill level: Advanced