A sixty-foot, single-masted sloop dating back to the 1830′s has been discovered in deep water between Saugatuck and South Haven, Michigan. Holland-based Michigan Shipwreck Research Associates made the discovery in collaboration with nationally acclaimed author Clive Cussler and his sonar operator Ralph Wilbanks of the National Underwater & Marine Agency (NUMA).
During an exploratory dive to the 250-foot deep wreck, MSRA made note of three features that are significantly different from sailing vessels dating to the mid- and late-nineteenth-century: the lack of a centerboard, the presence of a raised afterdeck and deadlights (a pair of openings) in the stern that allowed light to reach the cargo hold.
MSRA’s historians have verified that the vessel’s construction and design is consistent with ships built in the 1820s and 1830s, making it perhaps one of the oldest vessels discovered in the southern basin of Lake Michigan. The vessel sits upright and is in surprisingly good condition considering it was built nearly 200 years ago. Exact identification will be difficult as these small, early sloops were rarely documented and most had wrecked or been scrapped before photography became available. MSRA will continue to research and explore the wreck during the 2011 season.
Underwater video of this new discovery will be shown at the annual “Mysteries and Histories Beneath the Inland Seas” evening event on Saturday, April 16, 2011 at 7:00 pm at Holland’s historic Knickerbocker Theatre. In addition to a program about four Ottawa County shipwrecks presented by local author Craig Rich, attendees will learn about the newly discovered steamer Westmoreland, the schooner Marion Egan, and the steamer Lady Elgin in which 300 people perished in the lakes’ deadliest disaster, the subject of MSRA’s award-winning author Valerie van Heest’s latest book. Tickets for the show are available at the Michigan Shipwreck Research Associates’ website.
Here’s a video of the wreck!