Volunteers Help Get S.S. Meteor in Ship Shape

At the north edge of Barker’s Island at Superior, Wisconsin sits an unassuming, little (by today’s standards) ship with a big story to tell.

It’s hard to believe today, but the launch of the S. S. Meteor (then the Frank Rockefeller) drew tens of thousands of spectators, as did most launches in the Twin Ports near the turn of the last century.

Now one of only two ship museums on the ports’ bay (the William A. Irvin is anchored in Duluth, MN) the  S.S. Meteor Whaleback is now land berthed just a few short miles from the site of her launch in 1896. At this site, she again drew tens of thousands of visitors during the mid-1970s’, with people from across the nation, and even across the sea, coming to view the longest sailing and only remaining (above water) Whaleback in the world.

The S.S. Meteor is one of about 40 Whaleback ships designed by Captain Alexander McDougall and built by his American Steel Barge Company in Superior. The Meteor is an enduring example of the technically innovative steel-hulled ships that greatly influenced the future of ship building and shipping on the Great Lakes. The design marks an important step in the progression toward the 1,000-foot freighters sailing the largest freshwater chain of lakes today.

Superior Public Museums has been charged with the maintenance of this historic vessel and the interpretation of the ship’s history. On deck for the near future is a comprehensive plan to completely overhaul to the ship’s exhibits so we may better present her story to museum visitors.

In the meantime, we have been readying for the new displays to come – getting her in ship shape – you might say. With thanks for the extra help from our hardworking and steadfast volunteer clean-up crew, we can confidently say that the ship is in better shape than it has seen in decades.

The volunteer work weekend scheduled April 26 – 27 is an event in itself. Along with all the cleaning, scrubbing, scraping and painting, there is an evening program, plenty of food to fuel our hale and hearty volunteers, and tons of fun to be had. This year, we’ll also be making plans for a crew to return when the winds at the head of the lakes are blowing just a bit warmer, to give the hull a new coat of paint.

If you are interested in joining the clean up crew or the painting crew, email: info@superiorpublicmuseums.org, or call Sara or Stacie at (715) 394-5712. 

Not up to the down and dirty of heavy lifting and cleaning or wielding a paint brush?  No worries, you can still help out when you Buy a Bucket ‘0 Paint!  $50 purchases one gallon of paint for the ship. You will receive our thanks and your name will be displayed on your bucket(s) in our “Thank You Tower” of empty cans, exhibited at the Meteor for the 2014 season. Contact us for details on how to make your donation – or click here.

The S.S. Meteor will re-open for the 2014 tour season on Sunday, May 19 from noon to 4 p.m. with free admission that day. Come Aboard to hear the story of the Whalebacks and experience a significant piece of Superior’s history.