Ely Stabilization Project: 1999 Season Report
by Bob Nelson, Ely
The more time I spend on the Samuel P. Ely
, the more I appreciate this magnificent piece of American history. The Ely
is a double hull, white oak, 200-foot long, three-masted topsail schooner that was driven into the breakwater on October 29, 1896 during a fierce storm.
It was a great summer with lots of good weather for diving on Lake Superior and in Two Harbors on the Ely
. Stabilization work on the Samuel P. Ely
continued with the replacement of two of the five 35-foot long steel tie rods that were originally installed during the deck raising and hull side securing project in 1994. The new rods are three-piece, one-inch steel with turnbuckle connections and end nuts. The outer washer plates for the rods were also replaced. The rods end nuts on all the rods were tightened and the hull pulled back together. The main objective is to stop the hull sides from spreading apart and eventually collapsing, as is common with wooden shipwrecks. We also installed some monitoring points to be used for measuring hull movement. This will help determine future stabilization needs.
The repairs did not go without some humorous incidents: My boat getting too low in the water (those darn drain plugs), ripped wet suit (holy cold!), and a quick trip to the surface from an over-inflated dry suit and BC while lifting rods. This kind of work is a continuous learning experience that you can't get from books.
Many thanks to the divers who helped: Bob Olson both for his teaching and assistance, Steve Daniel and Ron Johnson who are always willing to lend a hand, other GLSPS divers, and friends from the Duluth area. Thanks to the ghost divers who installed a rod left lying on the ship hull when Bob Olson and I ran out of air and muscle one Sunday afternoon. And special thanks to Tom Powers of LeJeune Steel Company.
Future plans are to monitor the hull movement and decide which sections need stabilization the most. We would like to stop the forward hull from separating further and do some aft deck repositioning and hull stabilization. This summer we will place a mooring block and shipwreck buoy alongside the Ely
for more convenient access.