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November's Fury: The Deadly Great Lakes Hurricane Of 1913 (2013)

by Michael Schumacher(Favorite Author)
3.81 of 5 Votes: 1
0816687196 (ISBN13: 9780816687190)
Univ Of Minnesota Press
review 1: In March of 1913, Ohio suffered massive flooding that killed 462 people, wrecked 20,000 homes, and left many more homes unlivable (p104). On the heels of that, in November, the state then suffered one of the worst maritime tragedies in history, a massive hurricane by sea and a massive blizzard by land. 235 hundred died and many ships were lost to the Great Lakes, totaling a loss of nearly $5 million in goods and ships. It's a tragic story of loss but also a story of business priorities and an ineffectual Weather Bureau. Much like the Galveston Hurricane of 1900, the Weather Bureau was at the whim of the technology and, unfortunately, was not well respected by those in maritime business. In an age where licking your finger and sticking it up in the air helps you gauge ... morethe wind, listening to a report of a possible storm when there was money to be made seemed silly and futile. Many did listen and stayed docked. But others, desperate for a full season bonus or pressured by their bosses to deliver, braved the waters that would come to be their final resting place. Some were lucky. Milton Smith had a 'feeling' and quit the day before his ship was set to sail. Sounding like some 9/11 survivor stories, James McCutcheon was late to work that day and missed the boat's departure. This was the third time he had been late to work and avoided death. He missed both a ship fire and a ship sinking before missing the tumultous storm and loss of the Wexford. Another was one of five to have survived his ship's sinking. He was one of the lucky few to be seen floating after the storm died down. Another lucky man showed up at his own funeral after his father misidentified a body (who sadly was never claimed). Many others were not so lucky. Many were found in life jackets or tethered to life boats. Others would wash up on shore, with no more respect than flotsam. Where there was respect was from the Lake Carriers' Association. While Canada refused to pay out any money to family members for deaths that were a result of a natural disaster, Lake Carriers' Association did do so, doling out $17,825 to 153 individuals. Besides financial recompense, people also wanted answers. How did the ships fail? "There is a longstanding belief, held by sailors and underwater explorers alike, that a wreck will not be discovered until a sunken vessel is ready to reveal herself to those searching for her...A wreck, no matter how twisted or destroyed, possesses a dignity and spirit, and that spirit is not about to be disturbed except under its own terms," (p170). The storm lifted up the remains of other shipwrecks from before 1913 which made for a macabre but enlightening sight. Over the course of the next year and indeed decades to come, more wreckages would also be found that would provide answers. With nautical ventures, we know more of what happened to Lightship 82, Charles Price, The Regina, the Wexford (in 2000!), the Henry Smith (2013!), etc. The science, technology, and craft is amazing. It's a truly sad story of a little known event. The Perfect Storm film shed light on that event. Perhaps this book can shed a little light on this one. With plenty of pictures that really bring the men and ships to life, it tells the story in an engaging manner, jumping from ship to ship, trying to tell the tale in chronological order, and from sea to land to sea, in order to provide insight into the chaos and communication cut off that the state was dealing with at the time. It was clear which ships would survive by the author's source material. If he could provide quotes, there were survivors. If he relied on other secondary sources or speculation, there would be none. And you really hoped, each time you learned of a different ship, there would be quotes.
review 2: Coming out on the 100th anniversary of the storm, November's Fury provides a narrative account of one of the most destructive storms to hit the Great Lakes. On November 7-10, 1913, two fronts collided to generate hurricane force winds that lasted for hours. Twelve ships were sunk (eight in one day), thirty-one others were grounded on beaches and rocks while other boats were severely damaged. Over 250 men and women died as a result of the storm which also isolated Cleveland, Ohio in a blizzard that cut train service, disrupted food supplies and wracked the city with storm surges.Michael Schumacher provides a day by day account of the storm as it hits Lake Superior and Lake Michigan, then spreads to Lake Huron and Lake Erie. The author uses diaries, contemporary newspapers, official reports, and secondary sources to bring to life the tales of the men, women and ships involved. The reader is also provided many photographs of the ships named in the narrative, which also helps set the tone of the tale. Readers are introduced to ship captains and crew as they make their struggle against the storm and lake. We cheer and groan as disaster is averted or strikes with deadly consequences. The author provides closure by letting the reader in on what has been discovered since 1913 in regard to the wrecks. He also provides an appendix which summarizes all the ships involved with details regarding cargo, size, deaths involved, etc.Despite growing up near the Great Lakes, I had not heard about this storm. I found the book to be an interesting, informative and, despite the subject matter, an enjoyable read. The narrative tone is spot on to involve the reader in the story while providing just enough details to not overwhelm us. I highly recommend this book for those interested in maritime and Great Lakes history. less
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interesting look at an important and overlooked part of Michigan history.
Enjoyed it. A bit repetitive style-wise, but still worthy.
You like shipwreck stories? Have I got the book for you!
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