The Lonely Tale of a Shipwreck's Sole Survivor

Dennis Hale survived 1966 wreck in Great Lakes during brutal blizzard

By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff

Posted Apr 28, 2013 9:58 AM CDT

(Newser) – The SS Daniel J. Morrell was the second-to-last shipwreck on the Great Lakes, torn apart by a fierce blizzard on Nov. 28, 1966. Dennis Hale was the sole survivor of that wreck, and his harrowing tale is detailed in the Morning News. Hale had been sleeping when, around midnight, the 60-year-old ship started to break up amid 25-foot waves. He just had time to grab a lifejacket and pea coat—though no pants—before the life raft launched, but the pulverized ship slammed into the raft, knocking everyone into the water. Only four made it back into the life raft. By the morning, two of them were dead, and the third man died a few hours later, with the life raft just 200 yards from shore.

Hale clung to life over the next 34 hours in that life raft, in the freezing storm, before the Coast Guard finally found him, 25 pounds lighter than when the ship had sunk. After that, Hale was done with sailing. He refused to talk about what had happened, got divorced four times, and was so scarred by the experience that he was scared to take baths. But finally, 15 years later, Hale attended a meeting of the Great Lakes Shipwreck Society, where at last he found the strength to talk. “The next morning, I woke up, and I felt better," said Hale. "I’m the only lone survivor of a Great Lakes shipwreck." He still has the lifejacket. Click for the entire harrowing account.

An early picture of the SS Daniel J Morrell, from 1912. In 1966, the Morrell became the second-last industrial boat to sink in the Great Lakes.   (Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SS_Daniel_J._Morrell)
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