While doing research for Lost In Michigan I come across some strange and interesting stories. I stumbled upon the strange shipwreck and salvage of the J. Oswald Boyd. The 255 foot long steamer was transporting almost a million gallons of gasoline around the Great Lakes. During a winter storm in November of 1936, the steamer with tanks full of gasoline ran aground on Simmons Reif in Lake Michigan between Beaver Island and the Upper Peninsula. The captain was hoping a tug would pull the ship off the reef but after noticing the rainbow-like sheen of gasoline on the surface of the lake he ordered the crew to abandon the ship for fear of an explosion. The Coast Guard took the crew to Mackinaw City while a salvage tug tried to rescue the ship and it’s cargo. The tugs draft was too deep to get close to the J. Oswald Boyd.
I few enterprising fishermen used their boats to siphon off a few barrels of gas but it made little difference to the enormous supply still on the ship. It was Everett Cole who owned the Beaver Island Transit Company that made an effort to salvage the gas, free for the taking, as it remained stranded in Lake Michigan. He and a small crew made a few trips from Beaver Island to transport the gasoline by the barrel. By late December the ice was starting to form in the Upper Great Lakes and he used the iron-hulled ferry the Marold II to break through the ice and make another trip. His brother and three other men help with the operation when suddenly the Marold II exploded and burst into flames killing all five men.
After the fire had burned out the Marold II was in large pieces scattered around and on the J Oswald Boyd. The Boyd still had gasoline in its tanks, and now frozen in the thick winter ice, locals began driving out to the ships in their cars to get the free gas for themselves. Movie footage of this strange scene can be found on Youtube HERE
It seems kind of funny to see everyone scrambling for free gas, but I have a feeling if a ship full of gasoline was left frozen in the ice people would still do the same thing today.
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