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Steamship wreck found 110 years after sinking

In the north of the United States, in the Great Lakes Region of North America, wreck hunters have located another lost vessel. This time it is the wreck of the steamer Pere Marquette No. 18, measuring over 100 metres, which sank in the waters of Lake Michigan on 9 September 1910, i.e. 110 years ago!
Published: September 9, 2020 - 09:00
Updated: July 22, 2023 - 21:00
Steamship wreck found 110 years after sinking

In the north of the United States, in the Great Lakes Region of North America, wreck hunters have located another lost vessel. This time it is the wreck of the steamer Pere Marquette No. 18, measuring over 100 metres, which sank in the waters of Lake Michigan on 9 September 1910, i.e. 110 years ago!

Built in 1902, the steamer Pere Marquette No. 18, was one of the most famous Great Lakes wrecks that no one could find. Until now. Two Minnesota wreck hunters, Jerry Eliason and Ken Merryman, combined the information available in archives with the possibilities offered by modern technology and located the wreck of the vessel at a depth of over 150 metres.

postcard with a steamboat divers24.pl
Archival photograph showing the steamer in its full glory

It is interesting to note that the steamer sank into the bottom at such an angle that the bow of the ship was 30 metres above the bottom. This fact is confirmed by historical accounts of how the Pere Marwuette No. 18 sank.

It’s amazing that divers from the Lake Michigan area have been looking for the wreck almost forever, and the guys from Minnesota went underwater and literally found the wreck in a matter of days, said Frederick Stonehouse historian and author of books on Great Lakes wrecks

It was a turbulent few hours almost in the middle of Lake Michigan when, in the early morning of September 9, 1910, a ship carrying some 60 passengers and crew members and nearly 30 wagons from Ludington, Michigan, to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, began to take on water faster than its pumps could bear.

sonar scan of a steamship wreck divers24.co.uk
Sonar image showing wreckage found

Captain Peter Kilty quickly gave the appropriate orders in an effort to save the situation. The crew began dropping wagons to reduce the cargo, which was now beginning to pose a deadly threat, as quickly as possible. He also ordered a change of course to reach shore as quickly as possible, and the wireless telegraph sent the message “Carferry 18 sinks in middle of lake – help – help”.

The vessels in the area, having received the message, rushed to the rescue. In the meantime, the ship was taking on more and more water as it headed towards the Wisconsin coast. However, everyone hoped that by some miracle they would reach the shore before disaster struck.

Per Marquette steamer wreck divers24.co.uk
The wreck is stuck with its stern to the bottom and its bow 30 m above it

And just then, according to eyewitnesses and confirmed by the exploration of the wreck, the stern of the Per Marquette No. 18 disappeared underwater and the bow shot up into the sky before disappearing under the surface of the water, taking with it 29 of the 60 people on board that day.

The American media describe the story of the sinking of the steamer as unusual and mysterious. This atmosphere is further enhanced by the many years of unsuccessful search for the wreck. The story of the sinking of the Per Marquette No. 18 is by all means unusual, as when a ship went down in this area, there were no survivors.

Lake Michigan wreck hunters divers24.pl
Minnesota wreck hunters used archival accounts and modern equipment

Here, not only were more than 30 people rescued, but the very moment of the sinking was seen by dozens of others who rushed to their aid. Unfortunately, Captain Kilty and his crew, those who could provide the most comprehensive answers to the question of what really happened, went down with his ship.

It is possible that after 110 years, questions about the sinking will finally be answered and the exploration of the wreck will allow the full story of this extraordinary tragedy, which happened 110 years ago…

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About author

Tomasz Andrukajtis
Editor-in-chief of the DIVERS24 portal and magazine. Responsible for obtaining, translating and developing content. He also supervises all publications. Achived his first diving certification – P1 CMAS, in 2000. Has a degree in journalism and social communication. In the diving industry since 2008.
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