The Armistice Day Storm: 75 years later.

October 17, 2015
Ric Mixter speaks at the Ludington Area Center for the Arts.

Ric Mixter speaks at the Ludington Area Center for the Arts.

This Living History series is sponsored by Cole’s Antique Villa, 120 N. Main St., Scottville, 231-936-1123, colesantiquesvilla.com.

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

LUDINGTON — Monday, Nov. 11, 1940 was a warm November day. Armistice Day started out with temperatures in the 60s. Three days earlier a storm hit the Northwestern shoreline with winds so strong that the Tacoma, Washington bridge collapsed. The storm made its way south and then turn back north, coming up through Indiana. It built up strength as it hit Lake Michigan while temperatures plummeted. The storm became the worst storm in modern history of the Great Lakes.

On Saturday, Oct. 17, the West Michigan Underwater Preserve hosted a lecture at the Ludington Area Center for the Arts which featured shipwreck historian and diver Ric Mixter and maritime historian, author and diver Valerie Van Heest.

The epicenter of the Armistice Day Storm was between Little Point Sable and Big Point Sable. Three ships went aground off the shore of Penwater

The storm hit late Monday afternoon, November 11th, with winds of hurricane proportions. The winds struck suddenly from the southwest about 2:30 p.m. and were accompanied by drenching rain, which later changed to snow.

Mixter said modern meteorologists say winds were 27 feet to 40 feet high with wind velocities of 75 mph. Hundreds of power and telephone lines were down around Mason and Oceana counties. Trees were uprooted, small buildings were overturned, and brick walls were toppled, causing at least one serious injury.

coles 042715The Pere Marquette Railroad carferry City of Flint 32 attempted to make Ludington harbor but wound up on the beach about 300 yards from the shore. Coast Guard boats from local stations were dispatched to assist the 32. However, they didn’t take in account the three ships that had sunk near Pentwater, Mixter said.

Mixter told the story about the ordeal and resuce of the Novadoc, a 253-foot steel freighter that was built in 1928 in Great Britain. It was owned by Paterson Steamships, Ltd. of Ford William, Ontario, Canada and was traveling north from Chicago, carrying coal dust. Its destination was Port Alfred, Quebec.

The ship ran aground 200 yards off of Juniper Beach near Pentwater.

Mixter interviewed survivors of the Novadoc for his video “Safe Ashore” and talked about two of the survivors, Lloyd Belcher and Howard “Goldie” Goldsmith. He also acquired photographs and film coverage from the three fishermen who rescued the 17 survivors of the Novadoc, The fishermen were Captain Clyde Cross, Gustav Fisher and Joe Fountain.

Cross had asked the Coast Guard if it needed assistance and he was turned away. He eventually took matters into his own hands. They were able to rescue the survivors 36 hours after the ship ran aground.

Van Heest, who is also designing the Port of Ludington Maritime Museum, narrated a video that featured films and photographs on the storm. She also showed videos of dives she conducted to find the remains of the 380-foot long Anna C. Minch, a ship from Canada that sunk in shallow water between Little Point Sable and Pentwater, the Novadoc and the Davock, which was a 420-feet long freighter that is over 200 feet underwater near Little Point Sable. The Davock lays upside down on the bottom of Lake Michigan. No one survived from the wrecks of the Davock (33 dead) and the Minch (24 dead) while two people died from the Novadoc.

To see Mixter’s video interview with the survivors, go to his website, www.rickmixter.com.

Mixter said he is constantly in search of people who were have stories about the storm. Contact information can be found on his website.

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