January 20, 2021

Lake Michigan’s Clear Waters Reveals Long-Forgotten Shipwrecks

Only a few months ago, on April 17, a Coast Guard aircrew was doing a routine patrol along the Lake Michigan shoreline when they made this amazing discovery. The lake’s water is so clear right now as ice is gone for the season, giving the aircrew the amazing opportunity to snap photos of the many shipwrecks revealed in the lake’s crystal clear waters.

From the sky, at a freezing average of 38 degrees, the aircrew as able to spot and identified some of the lake’s 1,500 sunken hulls.

Among them is James McBride. This 121-foot brig ran aground during a storm on October 19, 1857. Her remains lie 5 to 15 of water near Sleeping Bear Point.

lake michigan shipwrecks
U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City

According to the Coast Guard, McBride journeyed to the Manitou Islands in mid-October of 1857 where she took on a cargo of wood. On October 19, on her return trip to Chicago, she encountered a gale and was driven ashore near Sleeping Bear Dune.

lake michigan shipwrecks
U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City

The Rising Sun. This 133-foot long wooden steamer was stranded north of Pyramid Point on October 29, 1917. Her wreckage now rests in 6 to 12 feet of water.

lake michigan shipwrecks
U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City

An unknown wreck captured by the US Coast Guard from a helicopter during a routine patrol. The lake’s clear waters reveal two more shipwrecks.

lake michigan shipwrecks
U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City

The unpredictable weather makes Lake Michigan home to some of the most dangerous waters in the world where many ships foundered in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

lake michigan shipwrecks
U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City

The normally obscured wreckage is now exposed due to the water’s unusual transparency which was caused by surface ice melting, waves, wind, and beach erosion. It’s truly incredible that the aircrew was able to take these photos before plankton and other organisms conceal the boat graveyard once again.

H/t U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City

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