NUMA is not just a fictional company, the National Underwater and Marine Agency is a real sea exploration agency founded by Clive Cussler. This week it was announced that Clive Cussler and NUMA’s Sonar operator Ralph Willbanks have discovered a The Hattie Wells a 1860’s schooner in Lake Michigan while working with Michigan Shipwreck Research Associates.
Believed to be The Hattie Wells, it was built in Port Huron, Michigan by the shipbuilders Stewart & Fitzgerald in the year 1867. The three-masted schooner had a length of 135’, with a beam of 26’, and a depth of 11’. Later configured as a schooner barge, the Hattie Wells was lost in a storm on November 6, 1912.
Over the years she courted disaster on a number of occasions including collision, grounding and lightning strike. After a grounding in 1892 she was given up for lost but was later salvaged as a wreck and towed back to Detroit for refit. Once again afloat, she continued in service, later as a barge.
In November 1912, hauling lumber (Hemlock, elm and pine) from Waukegan, IL to Muskegon, MI in heavy weather she was being continually swamped and was taking water. Shifting cargo took out a pilot house containing a donkey engine which powered bilge pumps. With the only means of removing water gone, the vessel was doomed to sink and so the towing tug cut the hawser and proceeded to attempt a rescue of the 5 hands on board. At considerable risk to the tug, goaded on by two plucky young stewardesses, a dramatic rescue was successfully executed and all hands were safely recovered.