Type: Iron Passenger Steamer Length: 95.3 x 12.5 x 8.3 ft., 93 gt. Depth: 15 - 20 ft. Location: Portage Canal at Hancock LAT/LON: 47.07.42'/88.35.31'
On the evening of Tuesday, June 4, 1912, the iron excursion steamer Uarda was moored at Seager's wood dock in Ripley when she was found to be on fire. "The fire, which broke out at 11:00 PM, was believed by Captain Werner of the steamer to have been set by some person. The boat was owned by A.D. Scott and Captain Werner, both of Hancock. She was valued at $12,000 and was insured for $5,000. For over an hour the boat was a mass of flames, illuninating the entire waterfront for several hundred yards. The blaze had gained such headway when the Ripley and Hancock fire departments arrived that their efforts were ineffective and the boat was regarded as a total loss by the owners. Captain Werner had been working on the boiler of the boat for two weeks preparing her for the summer excursion season. It had been intended to run the Uarda between Hancock and Houghton and the Ship Canal as in previous seasons. Captain Werner had left his work at 8:00 PM after locking up and did not return."
"Later that summer, the hull was towed to the old Stringer dock in West Hancock where she was to stay until the owners figured out what to do with her. Then in April of 1913, she sank to the bottom of the river. It was believed that her bottom, which froze during the winter, and the weight of the ice had undoubtedly caused a leak. A broken pipe was believed to have caused the boat to fill with water. Just as soon as the ice about the hull commenced to thaw, the ropes which held the steamer's hull to the dock gave way and she went down from sight in about 20 ft. of water. The owners wanted to beach the remains, but the disposition of the boat was [not] to be seen. Mr. Scott wanted to rebuild the Uarda that season and install a gasoline engine, as that would reduce the operating cost and make it possible to break even. The previous season had resulted in a heavy loss to the owners, which did not encourage placing the boat in her former condition." Two years later however, the owners were still talking about raising her and selling her machinery. She was not officially abandoned until 1921.
The Uarda had been built in 1881 by David Bell at Buffalo, New York and was launched as hull #26. She was contructed as an 89 gt. steam yacht, but later converted to a 93 gt. passenger steamer. She carried official number 25243. She had been brought to the Keweenaw for use as a passenger steamer and was used for excursions to the White City amusement park at the present South Entry. She was a popular boat among early Houghton and Hancock residents and had two large open decks.
The Uarda's hull apparently remained on the bottom of the canal and divers rediscovered her in the early 1970s. Houghton resident Rudy Maki reputedly recovered her stempost and for many years displayed it in his yard. Today, the iron hull of the Uarda lies just east of the wreck of the Sailor Boy. She lies very near the edge of the canal and still contains some of her machinery. Her iron hull is beginning to deteriorate and can be easily damaged. Care must be taken to avoid breaking off rusty iron parts. The Uarda's remains are quite substantial and allow for limited penetration roughly amidships, but her bow and stern have already been damaged and are barely recognizable. Visibility at the site is limited and divers will have better dives in the early and late season. Like all Michigan's submerged historic resources, she is now protected from unauthorized salvage. Please leave her remains for other divers to see.
References: White City by Clarence Monette, the Dave Swayze Wrecklist, Michigan Technological University Archives, Randy Beebe, Milwaukee Public Library - Herman Runge Collection, Tom Villand, Danny Aerts