The Meteor is a whaleback - the last ship of her kind in the world. She was designed and built by Captain Alexander McDougall (1845-1924), a very gifted Scotsman whose stubborn will and unconventional ideas enabled him to develop dozens of patents in several different countries. The creation of the whaleback steamer lives on as one of his most revolutionary inventions, yet these unique ships remain relatively unknown.
McDougall envisioned a ship whose sleek, steel hull would enable her to carry a maximum amount of cargo at a minimum depth. The whaleback would also be a seaworthy vessel with a low, rounded hull that minimized resistance from fierce wind and waves. The Meteor is the 36th of 44 whaleback ships built between 1888 and 1898. All but two of them were built at McDougall's American Steel Barge Company in Superior, located just one mile from where the Meteor now rests.
Read more about Captain
The Frank Rockefeller making hull repairs, 1918.
Photos part of the Ken Thro collection.
The Meteor was originally named the Frank Rockefeller. She was launched in 1896 and plied the Great Lakes as an iron ore carrier. The vessel is 366.5 feet long, with a beam or width of 45 feet, and was originally registered at 2,759 gross tons.
|South Park foundered on Lake Michigan in 1942. The upside-down flag is a standard signal for a ship in distress.||No one was injured, but the ship was heavily damaged.|
In November of 1942, South Park foundered in Lake Michigan near Manistique. It was
World War II and steel ships were in high demand for hauling oil. Despite heavy
damages, the vessel was purchased by the Cleveland Tankers Corporation, who
converted the ship to an oil tanker and renamed her the Meteor. The Meteor
carried cargos of gasoline, jet fuel, various grades of oil, and petrochemicals
on the Great Lakes until 1969. As the last whaleback in service, the Meteor
was somewhat of a novelty and a favorite for boat watchers and photographers.
|Meteor's crew making repairs at dock.||A trunk deck was added with pipes for loading the ship's liquid cargo.|
Read about other famous whalebacks
In November of 1969 Meteor ran aground near Marquette, Michigan. Coast Guard inspection officials told Cleveland Tankers that the ship would need a complete overhaul to remain in service. Meteor was retired and languished at a dock in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, until the City of Superior reached an agreement to receive the Meteor as a permanent museum.
|The Coast Guard tows Meteor home to Superior in 1972.||The S.S. Meteor Whaleback Ship Museum in Superior, Wisconsin.|
Dinner & Silent Auction on board the SS Meteor Whaleback Museum