Shipwreck found at bottom of Lake Michigan almost 140 years later

Local explorers have found the remains of a steamship that lay at the bed of Lake Michigan for around 137 years, using clues in newspaper clippings to discover the wreck.

Explorers from the Michigan Shipwreck Research Association (MSRA) made the remarkable discovery of the Milwaukee, a steamship that disappeared into the depths of the lake in 1886 after it collided with another ship around 40 miles from Holland, Michigan, where it now lies in 360 feet of water.

The 135-feet-long ship was first commissioned in 1868  by one of the earliest steamship operators, The Northern Transportation Company of Ohio, to join a growing fleet to carry passengers and goods between New York and Chicago.

As the railroads continued to expand, the ship was eventually repurposed into a cargo carrier on Lake Michigan, and was then sold in 1883 to haul lumber to Chicago.

The MSRA made the discovery of the vesselin June of last year using side-scan sonar, and then spent the summer working to film the shipwreck, trying to confirm its exact identity, the association announced in a Facebook post.

They also used a remote operated vehicle (ROV) to document the wreck, assembled especially for the project by the team’s engineer.

Before this, however, in order to discover the exact whereabouts of the ship, the explorers had to go back to basics, looking into old newspaper accounts rather than using modern-day technology to crack the case of where the ship disappeared to.

“It was newspaper accounts of the sinking that provided the clues we needed to locate the shipwreck,” said Valerie van Heest, who with her husband Jack van Heest, coordinated the search effort together.

The accounts painted a picture of the day that led to the ship’s demise.

In July 1886, the Milwaukee was smashed into by another boat, the Hickox, causing the steamship to sink, after a perfect storm of unfortunate incidents on the water.

Both ships were sailing such an exact course that around midnight they ended up bearing straight for each other.

Under navigation rules, both captains were supposed to slow down, steer right and sound their whistles to indicate their course change.

“But the old superstition that bad things happen in threes would haunt the captains of both ships that night,” the MSRA wrote in their post.

Neither captain slowed down because visibility was fine, but “suddenly a thick fog rolled in, rendering them both blind,” the MSRA said.

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  • Source of information and images “independent”

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