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Two wrecks found after collision 141 years ago - video

A group of nautical history enthusiasts in the Great Lakes Region of North America, have announced that they have found the wrecks of two schooners dating back 141 years! In the waters of Lake Michigan, they managed to locate and identify the vessels “Peshtigo” and “St. Andrews”, which sank in 1878. It had been known
Published: October 23, 2019 - 12:15
Updated: July 22, 2023 - 18:43
Two wrecks found after collision 141 years ago – video

A group of nautical history enthusiasts in the Great Lakes Region of North America, have announced that they have found the wrecks of two schooners dating back 141 years! In the waters of Lake Michigan, they managed to locate and identify the vessels “Peshtigo” and “St. Andrews”, which sank in 1878.

It had been known since 2010 that something interesting might be in this particular location. It was then that Bernie Hellstrom, a well-known local diver and prospector, found during one of his cruises in the Beaver Island archipelago, a large object lying on the bottom at a depth of about 60 metres.

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It wasn’t until nearly a decade later, in June 2019, that Hellstrom viewed his find using a custom-made vehicle equipped with a set of cameras and… couldn’t believe what he saw. It turned out that there was a veritable graveyard of wreckage on the bottom beneath his boat!

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Two magnificent Civil War wrecks, unseen by man for nearly a century and a half. Today they rest just 3 metres apart! It must be added that both vessels are fantastically preserved. After sinking, they settled to the bottom, covering themselves with masts, and around them a scattered load of coal can be seen.

Closer inspection revealed a huge hole in the side of one of the schooners, suggesting that there had clearly been a collision and instantaneous sinking after the collision. For historian Brendon Baillod, Hellstrom’s find was a real puzzle. All because within 50 miles of the wrecks found… there was no matching collision to speak of the sinking of the schooner.

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Experienced technical divers John Janzen and John Scoles were recruited to go underwater and prepare high quality film documentation to help solve the mystery. During the dive, Janzen and Scoles captured incredible video footage, showing evidence of a dramatic and violent disaster that occurred here in the distant past.

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For years, historians were convinced that the collision and sinking of the schooners “Peshtigo” and “St. Andrews” occurred in the eastern part of the Straits of Mackinac, where the second wreck was found. Or at least that is what everyone thought. The latest find not only sheds new light on the events of 141 years ago, but also makes it necessary to rediscover the history of the wreck, which until now was believed to be the schooner “St. Andrews”.

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The materials provided by the divers made it possible to establish without a shadow of a doubt that the wrecks found side by side were the aforementioned Civil War ships. “Peshtigo” was a huge three-masted schooner measuring 50 metres in length. It was built in 1863 in Peshtigo, Wisconsin, by shipowner Thomas Spears and was the largest vessel ever built there. The “St. Andrews”, on the other hand, was a two-masted schooner built in 1857 in Milan, Ohio, by the shipyard of Merry and Gay and measured 43 metres in length.

Source: shipwreckworld.com

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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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