Collision in the Straits: The Cedarville Tragedy
Cedarville is the largest intact shipwreck in Lake Huron, and yet no one really knows its story. It’s one of the most dived shipwrecks in the Great Lakes, resting on its side nearly turned over in about 100 feet of water. How it got there is a captivating and sad tale. The regular skipper for the stone carrier resigned abruptly, and a shuffle of deck crew brought the first mate to captain and third mate Len Gabrysiak down to wheelsman. 1965 was a busy beginning for US Steel, and Cedarville was hauling large chunks of limestone to the hungry furnaces at Gary even before all the ice had cleared the lakes.
Blinded by spring time fog, the wheelsman couldn’t see the back half of his ship in the mist, and he was surprised the skipper ordered full steam ahead, guided by radar through thenarrow passage under the Mackinac Bridge. Two other saltwater ships were making passage towards the east when Cedarville turned for their turn under the span. Len said the deck crew had been watching the radar as a mystery ship went under, but the captain assumed it would turn for Round Passage. Topdalsfjord didn’t make any radio calls as it turned south instead, and the two ships collided. Cedarville’s green captain dropped anchor instead of heading for shore, hoping he could get instructions from the head office in Pittsburgh before complicatin the mess he was already in.
Ric Mixter is the first to tell the Cedarville story on television, and his interviews with the crew and how they tried to save the ship are captivating. Wheelsman Len Gabrysiak’s eyewitness account from the pilothouse further adds detail to the speculation on why the captain pulled anchor and tried to cross the Straits rather than beach his doomed ship on the north shore.
With commentary from a German sailor that pulled survivors from the freezing Straits, Ric’s lecture on Cedarville will captivate audiences anywhere on the lakes, especially those who are part of the millions who have sailed over Cedarville’s grave on their way to Michigan’s #1 tourist destination of Mackinac Island.
Note: Cedarville’s story is told in much less detail in three of Ric’s lectures; “The Wheelsmen”, based on his book, “Deep Six”, and “Shipwrecks of Lake Huron”. If you would like to learn more about the wreck, check out Ric’s podcast www.shipwreckpodcast.com , watch “Final Run” or read “The Wheelsmen”.
Ric Mixter Bio
With dozens of appearances in two countries and three states last year, Ric Mixter is certainly one of the busiest maritime speakers, rumored to be the most requested historian on the Great Lakes. Visiting museums, libraries, schools and his live music concert “STORM”, thousands of audience members get a new appreciation for our unique inland-sea history through his spellbinding lectures.
Millions of television viewers recognize Ric Mixter as a shipwreck researcher, diving over 100 shipwrecks in the Great Lakes, including the Edmund Fitzgerald. He has produced over 30 programs for PBS and the Outdoor Channel, and appeared as a shipwreck expert on the History and Discovery Channels. He leads the pack when it comes to sharing our unique underwater resources with the general public, and thousands of dive show patrons and countless school kids know him as the energetic story teller who uses video like no other presenter can. His stories appear in books, magazines and in radio and TV news programs. Mixter’s YouTube videos have over a million views, covering shipwrecks in four of the Great Lakes and adventures in several foreign lands.
Ric served as SCUBA cameraman on underwater expeditions to the Great Lakes largest shipwrecks, the Edmund Fitzgerald and Carl D. Bradley. He has interviewed dozens of shipwreck survivors over the past 15 years, including two from the 1913 Storm, two from the 1940 Armistice Day Storm and survivors from the largest shipwrecks in lakes Michigan, Huron and Erie. Today he runs his own production company, Airworthy Productions. He’s been Emmy nominated and has taken several awards including the Addy, Aurora, Michigan Association of Broadcasters Best Use of Medium, AP, UPI and was the 2007 Vescio award winner for a video on mental health advocacy. With over 20 years of stories on historical preservation, Ric was awarded the 2009 Award for Historic Interpretation by the Association for Great Lakes Maritime Historians. In 2011 he was elected to their board of directors. Ric is also on the board of directors for the Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association, elected to serve as their president starting in January of 2016. Ric has hosted the largest dive show in Ontario and also MC’d the midwest’s largest show in Chicago. He is a frequent speaker at Ghost Ships in Milwaukee and Michigan’s largest show “Great Lakes Shipwrecks”.
Ric is also a pilot- flying not only single engine planes, but also has flight time in several military jets. These include the US Air Force’s Thunderbird F-16 Falcon, and over 100 hours of camera work in the B-52 Stratofortress. He’s flown in the Goodyear Blimp and countless biplanes and aerobatic aircraft and has also jumped several times from over 12,000 feet as a skydiver. Ric also adept to filming in helicopters, from flying over the jungles of Honduras with the Army, to being lowered in a rescue basket into Lake Huron by the Coast Guard.
Sunken Treasure 2012
Offshore Outposts 2011
Cement Boat 2009
Bombs Away 2008
Cutter Rescues 2006
Final Run: Storms of the Century 2005
Safe Ashore: The 1940 Armistice Day Storm 2004
Great Lakes In Depth (26 episodes on PBS and the Outdoor Channel) 2000-2001
Deep Six: Titanics of the Great Lakes 1998
The Edmund Fitzgerald Investigations 1997
Expedition ’94 to the Edmund Fitzgerald 1995
Best Adventure Yet 1993
Books & Periodicals
“The Wheelsmen” 300 page book reprinted 2015
“Nordmeer” Michigan History Magazine 2015
“McDougal’s Dream” Michigan History Magazine 2013
“Bombs Away” Winter 2011
“Shipwrecks of Saginaw Bay” Michigan History Magazine July 2014
“Voices of the Lakes” article in book 1993