Clear, Low Water Reveals Centuries Old Shipwrecks in Lake Michigan

by Owen James Burke


The 121-foot brig James McBride ran aground during a storm in October 1857. She sailed the Atlantic in 1848 before meeting her freshwater fate, and is believed to have been the first vessel to carry cargo from the ocean to a Lake Michigan port. Photo: USCG Air Station Traverse City

During a routine patrol last Friday, he U.S. Coast Guard Air Station at Traverse City collected some stunning aerial images of these shipwrecks which, unlike those resting in briny seas, remain largely intact.


An unspecified wreck. According to the USCG, information on many of these vessels is scarce. Photo: USCG Air Station Traverse City

The Great Lakes may not have whales or sharks like the open ocean, but they do have wind and waves, as evidenced by the Department of Environmental Quality’s estimation that 6,000 vessels that have been lost on the inland seas. Some 1,500 of those ships came to the end of their service in Lake Michigan, and after a particularly cold winter and record-low water levels, clear and shallow shorelines are revealing the remarkably well-preserved vessels like never before.


The remains of Rising Sun, a 133-foot wooden steamer that grounded during an early winter storm in 1917. Photo: USCG Air Station Traverse City

See more of the photos, and find some of the ships’ histories at the USCG Air Station Traverse City’s Facebook page. –OJB

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