Event: Grounded December 4, 1989
Ship: 180 foot Coast Guard Cutter
Location: Keystone Bay
Coordinates: 47 23.59 N 87 44.35 W (Yellow buoy line on bow, white buoy line on stern)
Depth: 100 feet on main decks, 120 feet along the keel
Visible Remains: The Mesquite is virtually intact except for the superstructure. A line is in place at the stern that leads to the superstructure.
Story: After retiring from combat duty in the Pacific during WWII, the 180 foot Coast Guard Cutter Mesquite served the Great Lakes as a buoy tender. On December 4, 1989, in the early morning hours, the crew was attempting to retrieve a buoy in 2-4 foot waves off Keweenaw Point. The crew was rushing to beat the notorious winter storms that rage across the lake at that time of year. After the buoy was successfully hoisted aboard, Lt. Comm. John Lynch passed command to Ensign Susan Subocz. While the crew was securing the buoy, the cutter drifted out of position. There were no lookouts posted and navigational fixes were not taken.
At 2:10 a.m., the Mesquite got underway and grounded on the same reef from which the buoy had been taken. At first the damage was slight but the ship was pounding on the rocks and rolling from side to side. An attempt was made at 2:40 a.m. to back off the reef but the engines were vibrating wildly on their mounts.
At 4:05 a.m., orders were piped to prepare to abandon ship. The Mesquite reported to Station Duluth that there were three medical evacuations. One of the crew was suffering an anxiety attack, another was experiencing chest pains and the third had a possible broken arm. These individuals were taken to Portage View Hospital in Hancock and were treated and released.
By 8:30 a.m., the crew had evacuated the Mesquite and the Commanding Officer was the last to depart. Due to bad weather conditions, the Mesquite stayed on the reef throughout the winter and was decommissioned in January of 1990. During the winter, plans were made to sink the Mesquite so she would become part of the proposed Keweenaw Underwater Preserve.
The Mesquite now lies in 120 feet of water off Keystone Bay and is completely intact except for the superstructure which was removed to facilitate lifting her from the reef.
Reprinted with permission from "An Underwater Guide to Lake Superior's Keweenaw Peninsula" by Mark and Kathy Roberts, P.O. Box 332, Houghton, MI 49931
Visit The U.S.C.G.C. Mesquite Page for a pictorial!
For more detailed information on The Mesquite, visit the Keweenaw Underwater Preserve.
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