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KARE in the Air: Historic Great Lakes ship SS William A. Irvin

The old ore boat, which at one time lugged tons of material to steel mills on Lakes Michigan and Erie, is now a museum moored at Duluth's Canal Park.

DULUTH, Minn. — Our North Shore drone tour winds up in the port of Duluth, with an up-close look at what is likely the most recognizable ship on Lake Superior: the SS William A. Irvin, a historic ore boat that is permanently moored at a pier in Canal Park. 

The Irvin, commissioned in 1937, spent more than 40 years hauling iron ore from Lake Superior to steel mills on the shores of Lakes Michigan and Erie, often navigating ferocious storms to reach its destination. Built at the American Shipbuilding Company in Lorain, Ohio at a cost of $1.3 million, it was named after William A. Irvin, the fourth president of U.S. Steel.

One of four vessels built to the same specifications in the years following the great depression, the Irvin was 611 feet in length, making it one of the largest ships on the Great Lakes at the time. It had a newer, more powerful steam engine system, and under-deck tunnels that allowed crew members to go from the front of the ship to the back without having to brave unpredictable weather. 

Along with ore, the steamer also carried guests on behalf of U.S. Steel, putting them up in four private luxury cabins. 

While the Irvin's heavy-lifting days are done, the ship now serves as a floating museum, and when October rolls around... as a host of "haunted" tours.  

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