Eldorado Takes a Plunge

Island Gazette, Madeline Island In Lake Superior
From: Vol. 47 No. 5 June 21 – August 3, 2010 (Reprint from April 1982)

Woody Petersen’s Eldorado Takes A Plunge

Frank Woods “Woody” Petersen of Omaha, Nebraska and the island has placed himself (involuntarily) in the Island “Ice crossing Hall of Fame”, and has done it in the grand manner.  He somehow managed to put his 1978 Custom Eldorado Cadillac Convertible, reportedly valued at about $30,000 through the ice and a long way down to the bottom of Lake Superior –about 170 ft.

On the 29th, the crossing was not at its best (and this year even the best was not good) although there had been some travel. Arnie Nelson and John Prittie had been over and back and then there was Woody, who went over, and “down”.

Woody left Bayfield about 1 A.M., heading for an unusually dark Island, as apparently the lights at both the O’Brien and the Griggs approaches were out. The Griggs approach, about ½ mile further North, had just been opened for use as the more commonly used O’Brien approach had deteriorated badly.

It was pretty much a “pick your own road” situation, and as Woody was traveling somewhat hurriedly and concentrating on evasive action where it became necessary, he veered quite a bit too far North, heading almost directly for Leona’s — which wouldn’t have been open if he’d have made it.

About half-way, the big Caddy met her match and became mired in the death grip of a Lake Superior slush hole.  As water began running in on the floor, Woody decided it was time to get out and call a taxi.  Unfortunately they are pretty scarce out there – so he had to walk about a mile and a half through slush to the Island, and then another quarter mile to his house.

It has been reported that before leaving Bayfield he told someone to send out the Marines if he hadn’t arrived by a certain time, which he hadn’t, and his first question was where were the marines.  His next, by telephone to Arnie Nelson, was what time in the morning could he get the car unstuck.

However, when Arnie and Tommy Nelson went out early next morning in the windsled, all they found was a set of tire tracks ending abruptly, and a very big hole.  They told Woody he was stuck a little deeper than he thought and they would need a very long rope.

Word spread quickly, and pretty much halted all car travel, even tho’ Woody had been North of the road.  He wasn’t quite the last car across, but he was the last one half-way across.

Roy “Cigar” Nelson had quickly marked the spot with an ice buoy, as recovery attempts would have to wait until the ice was gone.  However, it was hoped they could locate the car and get a line on it because the current and the murky bottom might make it more difficult later.

Divers were sent down, but at 130 ft. their regulators were freezing, and they hadn’t reached bottom.  It now appeared that the infamous Caddy was resting much deeper than it was first thought.  When Woody hits bottom he goes all the way.

Attempts were also made to locate the car by grappling, hoping to luck out and catch on some part of the vehicle, with no luck. Now that the ice has gone, they will try again from the Nelson Construction barge, and with the aid of divers, hopefully they will fish out the elusive Eldorado. Woody is not the first to drop a car through, although we try not to make a practice of it. He will, however, probably go down in the records as having sunk the most expensive the deepest.

Island Gazette, Madeline Island In Lake Superior
Evan Erickson, Publisher / Waggie Erickson, Editor
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