Only one survivor -- the sinking of the Morrell

Nov 29, 2016

Fifty years ago today, the freighter Daniel J. Morrell split in two and sank amid a storm on Lake Huron.

Daniel J. Morrell
Credit Library of Congress

Only one of the 29 crew members survived. And as the Buffalo News recounts, Dennis Hale was haunted by guilt for years. He died in 2015.

The Morrell was headed from Bethlehem Steel's plant near Buffalo to pick up iron ore in Minnesota. When it went down in frigid waters, Hale took to a lifeboat. Three fellow crew members died in that boat before Hale was rescued -- more than 36 hours after the sinking. 

Watch a 2011 video of Hale recounting the tragedy.

“Dennis Hale’s description of the sinking and the hours being tossed around on Lake Huron in subfreezing temperatures is one of the most compelling stories of man against nature ever told.” Christopher Gillcrist,  executive director of the National Museum of the Great Lakes, told the Toledo Blade.

On the anniversary of the sinking, the museum is featuring a flare case from the Morrell’s life raft.

Other commemorations will be held Tuesday evening at the Saybrook Banquet Center in Ashtabula, Ohio, where Hale lived, and Wednesday evening at the Fairport Harbor library in Ohio. Both events will feature bell-ringing ceremonies and presentations by Mike Fletcher, a diver, filmmaker and co-host of the “Dive Detectives” series, according to the Associated Press.