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shipwrecks

image of sunken ship
Becky Kagan Schott

Standing on the shores of the Great Lakes on a sunny late-summer day, it’s virtually impossible to think of those sparkling waves as a death trap.

But divers have seen what those angry lakes can do to a ship.

Becky Kagan Schott, noted underwater photographer, joined Stateside to discuss what it’s like to document these untouched wrecks.

NOAA, Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary

Most people have heard of a bird or wildlife sanctuary, but fewer are familiar with sanctuaries for shipwrecks.

The Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary is one of only 14 national marine sanctuaries in the entire country operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and it’s situated in the northwest corner of Lake Huron, just off the shores of Alpena.

Nick Lintgen

It was near midnight in early May of 1884 when the J.S. Seaverns went down off the north shore of Lake Superior. The ship had run against some rocks on its way out of nearby Michipicoten Harbor. And while all aboard made it to shore alive, the ship was swallowed up by the lake, abandoned and forgotten.

Until now.

C. Patrick Labadie Collection

 

As the country fell into the Great Depression, the SS Senator sunk to the bottom of Lake Michigan.

Late last year, researchers used a remote-controlled submersible to confirm what had been identified as the SS Senator, which rests 15 miles off the Wisconsin shore. The ship sank in 1929 just a few days after the stock market collapse. Its cargo of 268 Nash automobiles from 1929 and 1930 is the largest known collection of its kind in the world.

Tom Kowalczk

The Coast Guard has been responding to a leaky shipwreck on the bottom of western Lake Erie.

The shipwreck is believed to be the Argo. It’s a tank barge that sank in 1937 and it’s considered the biggest pollution threat from a shipwreck in the Great Lakes.

When it launched in 1958, the 729-foot SS Edmund Fitzgerald was the largest ship sailing the Great Lakes.
user Greenmars / Wikimedia Commons

Of the thousands of shipwrecks that fill the Great Lakes, most people can name only one: the Edmund Fitzgerald.

It’s the last and the largest ship ever lost on the lakes.

This week marks 40 years since the Fitzgerald and its 29 crew members went down in Lake Superior.

But even this many years later, the story still captivates the public’s imagination.


Tom Kowalczk

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) - A dive team is searching for the source of what appears to be an oil-based substance leaking from a barge that sank in Lake Erie during the 1930s.

  The recently discovered barge is one of nearly 90 shipwrecks on a federal registry created two years ago to identify the most serious pollution threats to U.S. waters.

  Most of those wrecks are along the Atlantic seaboard and were sunk by German submarines during World War II.

Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

The Coast Guard is investigating a leak from a 78-year-old tank barge in western Lake Erie that's believed to be the Argo.

It sank in a storm in 1937.

Side sonar scan of the sunken barge believed to be the "Argo."
Tom Kowalczk, CLUE

Update - Monday, October 26, 10:10 a.m.:

The Coast Guard is sending out a crew from Station Marblehead in Ohio along with members of the Atlantic Strike Team from New Jersey to the wreck site this morning. They'll start doing air monitoring at the site. 

Coast Guard spokesman Petty Officer 3rd Class Christopher M. Yaw says the team will work to get a "good, clean sample" of the unknown substance that appears to be leaking from the barge so they can identify it.

Wisconsin Historical Society

Almost 900 square miles of Lake Michigan near Wisconsin have been added to an inventory of sites up for consideration as National Marine Sanctuaries.

The area contains 34 known shipwrecks and 122 reported vessel losses.

Fifteen of the shipwrecks are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

The wrecks are interesting for themselves -- and also for their cargo.

Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary

A watery window to Michigan’s past is expanding.

The Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary is expanding from its present 448 square miles of Lake Huron to 4,300 square miles.

Jeff Gray is the sanctuary superintendent. He says the expanded sanctuary will protect hundreds of shipwrecks, many dating back to the 19th and early 20th centuries.

“Each one of these wrecks is a tragic tale of how it ended up on the bottom. But each one of those wrecks played its part in building the country,” says Gray.