William L. Harkness of New York City, a Standard Oil investor, was out on an extended cruise in August of 1911. He had declined use of a pilot to navigate through the Schreiber Channel thinking the fee was too high. He was bound for the quaint town of Rossport approximately 100 miles from Port Arthur. His vessel the Gunilda was sailed towards the little town under his instructions to the captain. Gunilda was a luxury steam yacht built in 1897. This would be its last journey.
Coming around towards Rossport, on the northwest side of Copper Island the Gunilda rammed hard up on McGarvey’s Shoal. The keel raising up some 6 feet out of the water. McGarvey’s Shoal rises from the bottom of Lake Superior from a depth of 280 feet to a mere 3 feet. All aboard were taken off the vessel and taken into Rossport where Harkness then contacted his insurance and the tug “James Whalen” was dispatched from Port Arthur.
Under direct instructions from Harkness, the tug pulled the Gunilda off of the shoal against the suggestions from the salvers. As the yacht was pulled away from its obstruction she took on water through it’s collision hole and listed badly to starboard. She filled with water and swiftly sank to the bottom resting some 3 feet away from the vertical rise of McGarvey’s Shoal in 265 feet of water.
The Cousteau Society once visited the wreck of the Gunilda and claimed it was the most well preserved and prestigious shipwreck in the world.
Since it’s sinking several salvage attempts have been made. None were anywhere near being successful. In 1970 the site of the Gunilda took its first diving casualty, that of Charles “King” Hague. “King” was searching for the wreck with his diving partner Fred Broennle when the accident happened. This then instilled a life-long ambition in Fred Broennle to salvage the Gunilda. In 1976, Fred’s company Deep Diving Systems used high tech remote underwater TV camera systems to locate and recover “King” Hagues body. Financial difficulties later arouse that prevented Fred from raising the Gunilda.
Later in 1989 the wreck site took another life of deep diver, Reg Barrett, from Burlington, Ontario.
Lately the wreck has become of great interest to technical divers as a recreational dive site. It’s now termed to them as the “G” spot.
The following video photoclips were taken in September of 2000. To see the gold leafing still present on the bowsprit brings chills. It truly is one of the most well preserved shipwrecks of its age. Hopefully accelerated diver traffic will not bring harm to the “Reluctant Lady of McGarvey’s Shoal“. Care should be taken when swimming around this prestigious shipwreck site.