MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — Lake Michigan is home to nearly 1,500 known shipwrecks.
The majority of these underwater graveyards are in depths of a 100 feet or less, making exploration more accessible to your everyday diver.
But perhaps the lake’s most intact shipwreck, the John V. Moran, rests nearly 400 feet deep and just 12 miles off Muskegon’s shoreline.
“I wanted to lay a hand on the railing and experience basically a sunken time capsule from 1899 in person,” said Dusty Klifman, who just completed his three-year quest.
Due to the extreme depths of this wreck, only a handful of expert divers have physically laid eyes on the Moran.
Klifman said he and his team sank into the darkness of Lake Michigan for more than five minutes before the Moran came into sight.
Valerie van Heest said the Michigan Shipwreck Research Association discovered the Moran back in 2015.
“I had a historic photo of the ship and the camera came down and I thought that I was looking at the historic photo,” she said. “It was identical to the way it looked the day that it sank.”
The Moran was a wooden steam ship built in 1888. It primarily ran cargo between Wisconsin and Michigan. According to the Michigan Shipwreck Research Association, the Moran met its fateful end during the big winter storm of 1899.
“The crew was bucking ice,” van Heest said. “The lake was starting to freeze over and they were pounding their way, trying to break their way through ice.”
The ship’s hull eventually gave way and after four days of slowly sinking, the Moran disappeared.
Experts credit the ship’s slow demise as one of the key reasons the Moran is still so intact.
Klifman said he still can’t believe he was able to swim the halls of this forgotten ship. He documented his exploration, which showed the ship’s mast and pilot house are still intact more than a century later.