August 27, 2015: The Rock of Ages Lighthouse greeted us on reaching the waters surrounding Isle Royale. Rock of Ages sits on an isolated reef about two miles from the entrance to Washington Harbor on the west side of the island. This isolated reef lies in the open waters of Lake Superior and is a tiny rocky outcropping with water depth less than four feet circled by lake waters of over 300 feet. Prior to the lighthouse’s completion in 1910, several big steamships ran aground here in storms.
Each year, when we see the Rock of Ages, I feel it as a foreboding presence like a ghost of a long past era warning travelers that danger lurks in these waters. Despite the lighthouse’s powerful beam, lake conditions can make it useless in warning ships. In a heavy fog on May 27, 1933, the George M. Cox, a 270 foot steamship, struck the reef and grounded with its bow jutting into the air while its stern flooded. The 127 passengers survived to spent the night in the safety of the lighthouse. The George M. Cox eventually broke up and joined the previous shipwrecks in the deep waters of the Lake.