The discovery was possible because GLSHS members combined the results of historical research and available technology in their work. Thus, with the efforts of the entire team, they mapped the areas where individual ships were reported missing. The next step was to take the research vessel David Boyd and scan the lake bed with sonar in searching for wrecks. The result? Great! The researchers located and identified three 19th century shipwrecks.
On August 25, 1883, the steamer M.M. Drake was towing the schooner Dot, which was carrying a cargo of iron ore from Marquette. At one point Dot began to take on water. Captain Jones, who was in command of the schooner, greeted the steamer M.M. Drake, who approached the sinking vessel and picked up her crew before the vessel sank. Fortunately, no one was killed in this incident. Dot was a Canadian schooner formerly named Mary Merritt. She was built in a shipyard in St. Catharines, Ontario in 1865 and the wreck now rests at a depth of about 107 metres.
On September 29, 1885, the relatively new vessel Frank W. Wheeler, was being towed by the steamer Kittie M. Forbes. At one point a powerful gale passed over the lake, leading to disaster. The vessels struggled for hours in the deteriorating conditions. At one point, the crew from the Frank W. Wheeler vessel realized that their vessel was sinking. Captain William Forbes, owner and captain of the Wheeler, signaled his location to the steamer Kittie M. Forbes.
The two ships then tried to reach safety near Grand Island, near present-day Munising. Soon Captain Forbes ordered his men into a lifeboat, and 15 minutes later his ship sank. As the ship disappeared beneath the waves, several more explosions could be heard. The schooner-barge Frank W. Wheeler was built at the West Bay City Shipbuilding Co. Today, the wreck of the vessel lies at a depth of over 180 metres.
The third wreck that researchers have found is the schooner-barge Michigan on October 2, 1901. The steamer M.M. Drake (the same vessel that towed the aforementioned schooner Dot) was towing the schooner-barge Michigan near Vermilion Point. Both ships were fighting in rough weather conditions when suddenly the hold of the Michigan began to fill with water. Captain J.W. Nicholson manoeuvred the M.M. Drake alongside the Michigan, whose crew had abandoned the sinking vessel.
Only a few minutes later, a powerful wave collided the two ships with each other. As a result, the M.M. Drake lost her funnel and the ship was left without power. Now the crews of both ships were in danger. Fortunately, the two large steel steamers Crescent City and Northern Wave were nearby. The vessels rushed to their aid to rescue both crews. Harry Brown, a cook from Michigan, was the only fatality in this unusual double sinking. The remains of the steamer M.M. Drake were discovered by Shipwreck Society researchers in 1978. The vessel’s rudder is on display at Whitefish Point. In turn, the wreck of the Michigan is located at a depth of 200m.
Executive Director Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum, Bruce Lynn, said this is the largest number of shipwrecks the museum has discovered in a single season. Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society has been searching for, discovering and documenting lost shipwrecks since 1978.
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