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November 28, 1905 - The Wreck of the SS Mataafa

Saturday, November 28th 2020, 6:00 am - The November 28, 1905 storm was one of the worst storms to ever hit the Great Lakes.

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On November 28, 1905, the SS Mataafa was sailing on Lake Superior when she ran into what would be her demise, the Witch of November.

The Witch of November is a term used to describe the hurricane-like winds that roar across the Great Lakes during the fall. The annual events are created when the cold Arctic air from the north-northwest and warm Gulf air from the south interact.

The "witches" were brewing up one of the worst storms to ever hit the Great Lakes. The SS Mataafa didn't have a chance against the conditions, and to this day, the weather event is dubbed “The Mataafa Storm of 1905."

This is how it all went down.

The SS Mataafa left Duluth, Minnesota on November 27 at 5 p.m. It didn't take long for the winds to reach 71 km/h.

The battered remains of Mataafa The battered remains of Mataafa.

The ship was towing a barge named James Nasmyth. As Mataafa approached the Duluth Ship Canal, it was clear that the ship and the barge were not going to make it through, so under Captain R. F. Humble's orders, James Nasmyth was cut loose.

On November 28, the storm really started to pick up, with winds reaching gusts of 109 km/h. Captain Humble (retrospectively ironic names are almost never welcomed) finally resigned to the fact that the ship would have to return to Duluth.

Unfortunately, the witches were going to win this one.

The waters thrashed the SS Mataafa until she was grounded in shallow water near the north pier. The ship then broke in two.

There were 12 men in the aft of the ship that became submerged in water. Three men were able to make their way out and nine of them died on board.

There were another 15 crew members in the fore half of the ship who were able to get rescued on the morning of the 29.

Crew saving survivors of Mataafa A life-saving crew faces still-raging waters on November 29, 1905, to rescue Mataafa survivors.

To hear more about the Witch of November and “The Mataafa Storm of 1905," listen to today's episode of "This Day In Weather History."

This Day In Weather History is a daily podcast by The Weather Network that features unique and informative stories from host Chris Mei.

Thumbnail courtesy: Pixabay

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