1979: The Record-Setting First Voyage of a Lake Freighter

February 16, 1979

In the Great Lakes region, a lake freighter (also known as a laker) made her first voyage. This was the first voyage of that type of vessel in mid-winter, and it took place on the mostly ice-covered waters of both Lake Michigan and Lake Superior. This lake freighter was constructed by Bay Shipbuilding Company in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, to serve as part of the Great Lakes fleet of United States Steel Corporation (U.S. Steel).   

This vessel was named after Edwin H. Gott, who had been chairman and chief executive officer of U.S. Steel from 1969 to 1973. At the time in which the lake freighter bearing his name took her first official trip, Mr. Gott was still serving on both the board of directors for U.S. Steel and the company’s executive and finance committee.

For her inaugural voyage, MV Edwin H. Gott traveled from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on the shore of Lake Michigan to Two Harbors, Minnesota, along Lake Superior’s coast. The vessels accompanying her were the bulk carriers Cason J. Callaway, Philip R. Clarke, and John G. Munson. All four of these vessels were assisted along the way by the longtime and legendary U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) icebreaker USCGC Mackinaw (WAGB-83), nicknamed “Queen of the Great Lakes.” This USCG vessel smashed through as much heavy ice as possible during the trip between Milwaukee and Two Harbors.

Notwithstanding that welcome help, the Gott did not emerge completely unscathed from her first voyage. Heavy ice ended up significantly damaging one of the lake freighter’s side tanks and also a rudder. Consequently, the Gott had to remain in Two Harbors for more than two months for repairs before being allowed to go back into service.

The Gott has since been used extensively for picking up and transporting taconite — rocks used to make iron and steel — at various ports along the Great Lakes. A notable technological development for the Gott occurred during the mid-1990s, when Bay Shipbuilding Company fitted this lake freighter with a new conveyor apparatus for loading and unloading as much as 74,100 tons (67,222 metric tons) of cargo. This conveyor apparatus, measuring 280 feet (85 meters) in length, is the longest of its kind on any Great Lakes vessel.

The Gott is 105 feet (32 meters) wide at the beam and 105 fee (32 meters) long. This vessel is now owned and operated by Great Lakes Fleet, Inc., a subsidiary of Canadian National Railway.

Photo Credit: Public Domain

For more information on VV Edwin H. Gott, please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MV_Edwin_H._Gott

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