the Louisiana departed
Lorain, Ohio, on November 2, 1913, loaded with coal and headed
for Milwaukee. After delivering her cargo in Milwaukee, she
departed light for Escanaba, Michigan, to pick up a load of
iron ore. Around midnight of November 8, the ship passed through
a channel between the Bay of Green Bay and Lake Michigan known
See a map
of Death's Door
severe snowstorm greeted the Louisiana and her crew as they
negotiated the rocky passage. With winds over 70 miles per
hour, it whipped the waves into huge, crashing breakers. Captain
McDonald sought refuge from the dangerous conditions in Washington
Harbor on Washington Island, but the Louisiana's anchors could
not hold in the heavy seas and howling wind. The fierce storm
drove the ship aground, perilously close to the rocky southeast
shore of Washington Harbor.
the seas pounding on the rocks, the Louisiana's small lifeboat
offered little chance of getting ashore safely. Rather than
braving the heavy seas and surf in the tiny boat, the crew
elected to ride out the storm aboard the grounded steamer.
By morning, however, the grave situation had grown worse.
The storm was still raging, the ship was still helplessly
caught on the rocks, and the cargo hold was now ablaze in
a fire the crew could not extinguish. Capt. McDonald and the
desperate crew had little choice but to board the lifeboat
and take their chances in the surf, leaving the Louisiana
to suffer the ravages of the fire and the storm.