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Three 1800's-era shipwrecks discovered in Lake Superior near Grand Marais

Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum
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Great Lake Shipwreck Museum discovers 3 shipwrecks in Lake Superior
Posted at 11:15 AM, Nov 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-01 12:40:35-04

The Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society recently discovered three 1800's-era shipwrecks near Grand Marais, Michigan in Lake Superior.

Using historical research, technology, and teamwork, members of the GLSHS underwater research team discovered and mapped areas where the ships were reported lost. They then used the organization's 50-foot research vessel, David Boyd, along with Marine Sonic Technology to side-scan sonar the bottom of the lake to find the shipwrecks.

The schooner, Dot

August 25, 1883- The steamship M.M. Drake was towing the schooner Dot, downbound from Marquette with a load of iron ore, when the Dot started taking on water. The Captain Jones of the Dot, hailed the M.M. Drake, which came alongside his sinking ship and took his crew off before it dove for the bottom. All crew rescued. The Dot, formerly the Canadian schooner, Mary Merritt, was built in St. Catharines, Ontario in 1865. Her remains rest in over 350’ of water.

The schooner-barge, Frank W. Wheeler

September 29, 1885- The relatively new schooner-barge, Frank W. Wheeler, was being towed by the steamer Kittie M. Forbes, when a gale swept across the lake. The ships struggled in the worsening conditions for hours and soon the Wheeler’s crew realized that their ship was sinking. Captain William Forbes, owner, and captain of the Frank W. Wheeler signaled his predicament to the Kittie M. Forbes, and the pair of vessels then tried to reach the safety of Grand Island, near present-day Munising, MI. Captain Forbes soon ordered his men into the lifeboat, and 15 minutes later his ship sank, bow first. A number of explosions were heard as the ship slipped beneath the waves. The Frank W. Wheeler was built in West Bay City, MI (West Bay City Shipbuilding Co.) and today her wreckage lies in over 600’ of water.

The Schooner Barge, Michigan

October 2, 1901- The steamer M.M. Drake (same vessel which towed the Dot, as noted above) was towing the schooner-barge Michigan in the vicinity of Vermilion Point, 12 miles west of Whitefish Point. Both vessels were struggling in rough weather when suddenly Michigan’s hold begins filling with water. Captain J.W. Nicholson maneuvered the M.M. Drake alongside Michigan, with the latter ship’s crew jumping from their sinking ship onto the Drake. Within minutes, a massive wave smashes the two vessels together, destroying the M.M. Drake’s smokestack, leaving the ship without steam pressure. Without power, the Drake soon lost headway and waves swept over her decks. Both ship’s crews were now in danger, but two large steel steamers, the Crescent City and Northern Wave, were close by and maneuvered in to rescue the combined crews. Mr. Harry Brown, Michigan’s cook, was the only casualty in this unusual double sinking. The remains of the M.M. Drake were discovered in 1978 by the Shipwreck Society, and her rudder is on exhibit at Whitefish Point. Michigan’s hull is in 650’ of water.

Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum Executive Director, Bruce Lynn said this was the highest number of shipwrecks the museum has discovered in one season. Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society has searched for, discovered, and documented shipwrecks since 1978.

Learn more about these ships, and more shipwrecks they've discovered at shipwreckmuseum.com.