GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) - A ship believed to be from the early to mid-19th century has been found on the bottom of Lake Michigan near Grand Haven.
The non-profit Michigan Shipwreck Research Association (MSRA) made the discovery in October 2011. MSRA directors, Jack and Valerie van Heest and Craig Rich, spotted the wreck while working with side scan operator David Trotter.
The divers' video revealed an intact two-masted schooner about 90 feet long. It rests in 350 feet beneath the surface about 20 miles off the coast, according to an MSRA statement released on Friday.
This shipwreck ranks as the deepest schooner yet found in Lake Michigan.
It is a remnant of the Age of Sail on the Great Lakes when schooners provided the primary means of transportation. About 2,000 ships went down in deep water in Lake Michigan; hundreds more were driven into shallow water where they ended their days pounded to pieces by the surf.
The divers say the vessel and its cargo -- possibly grain -- resembles that of the St. Peter, built in 1868. It was lost in 1874 en route from Chicago to Buffalo, N.Y. while carrying a load of wheat.
Every man on the crew survived the wreck and later reported they abandoned the sinking ship about 35 miles off the Milwaukee, Wisc. shore.
"If this is the wreck of the St. Peter, then it drifted east for some time, coming to rest on the opposite side of Lake Michigan, significantly father east than the crew reported," Rich, author of two local shipwreck books, said.
An official document from the boat indicates the St. Peter had a scroll bow, similar to the one found on the discovered wreck.
"We plan to retrieve a sample of the cargo to have it chemically analyzed," Valerie van Heest said. "If it proves to be wheat, we can be more certain it is the St. Peter."
Valerie van Heest and Craig Rich will present the story of this new discovery at an event at the Knickerbocker Theater in Holland on April 21. "Mysteries and Histories: An Evening Beneath the Inland Seas," is MSRA's annual program that helps raise money to conduct annual shipwreck searches.
The van Heests and Rich have located 14 wrecks while working in partnership with Trotter, as well as nationally acclaimed author Clive Cussler.
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