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The Edna G Tugboat Assisted with the Madeira Rescue

Edna G Tugboat

The Edna G Tugboat was the last steam-powered tugboat that operated on the Great Lakes. She was built in 1896 for just over $35,000. She sits at 110 feet long, with a 23-foot beam, and has a 1000 horsepower engine. The engine generates a bollard pull of a whopping 30 tons! (Bollard pull is the nautical equivalent of horsepower.) During its operation, the engine would use roughly 25 tons of coal per week. That equates to about 12 shovels full of coal that had to be manually shoveled into the boiler every 10 minutes.

When you think of Great Lakes Shipping, most imagine the large freighters. Of course, they do play a huge role in the shipping industry. However, they aren’t the only ships that have assisted with the passage of goods around the Great Lakes. Other vessels, like tugboats, also play a huge role.

And for such a little tugboat, she sure had a busy life!

The History of a Little Tugboat

Jacob Greatsing, the president of the D & IR Railroad, named the tugboat Edna after his daughter. Edna (the tugboat) was built to service the Two Harbors shipping industry. Then, during WW1, she was moved to the east coast where she served the US government. After the war, she returned home to Lake Superior. In 1931 she was idled due to the Great Depression but was brought back into service in 1933. Finally, after nearly 85 years of service, the Edna G Tugboat made her final tow on December 30th, 1980.

She is, perhaps, most famous for her rescue mission to retrieve the survivors of the Madeira shipwreck. The Madeira sank in the 1905 Mataafa storm. After their ship sank, the crew had taken refuge on the cliffs near where Split Rock Lighthouse now sits. They waited on the cliff’s edge for several days before the Edna G Tugboat, along with other vessels, came to their rescue.

Local Importance

In 1981 she was officially retired and was donated to the city of Two Harbors to serve as a floating museum.

The Edna G Tugboat has played a very big role in the city’s heritage ever since. If you drive through town today, you’ll notice that the boat appears on town signs and the city seal.

These days, you’ll find the tugboat anchored in the harbor near the large iron ore loading docks. Recent renovation work caused the end to regular tours of the tugboat, but special tours are usually offered throughout the summer season. The historical society hopes to secure funding to move the boat on land and resume regular tours in the future. If they don’t find the funding, the damage that results from the boat sitting in the water year-round may cause the boat to sink.

At last, only time will tell what the fate of the Edna G Tugboat will be. Visit her in the city of Two Harbors while you can.

Getting There

The Edna G Tugboat is an iconic piece of the Two Harbors harbor. Once in the town of Two Harbors, on Highway 61, proceed south (toward Lake Superior) on 6th St. to Waterfront Dr.  From there, you will be able to see the boat in the harbor.

Unless special arrangements are made, you cannot currently tour the tugboat. However, there is lots to do in the Agate Bay area. While you partake in these activities, the Edna G Tugboat will be there as a symbol of history that you can still enjoy.

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