Lake Michigan reveals shipwreck near Ludington

Rising Waters

LUDINGTON, Mich. (WOOD) — Lake Michigan’s higher waters are uncovering more pieces of maritime history.

On April 24, two people alerted the Michigan Shipwreck Research Association to wreckage that surfaced on the shoreline north of Ludington, near the entrance to the state park.

(An April 2020 photo provided by the Port of Ludington Maritime Museum shows remnants of a shipwreck that surfaced on the shore of Lake Michigan near the entrance to Ludington State Park.)

Port of Ludington Maritime Museum Manager Eric Harmsen surveyed the remnants and determined they belong to a schooner that was built between 1850 and 1880.

“The waters around Big Sable Point and around Ludington are quite notorious and dangerous, especially during that time period for sailing vessels. We know of about 20 vessels that ran aground right in that area, so it could have been several of those,” Harmsen told WWTV.

The museum narrowed down the possibilities to the following ships lost in Lake Michigan:

  • The J.B. Skinner built in 1841
  • The George F. Foster built in 1852
  • The J.O. Moss built in 1863
  • The Eclipse built in 1852
  • The Orphan Boy built in 1862

Researchers say it’s possible the wreckage is connected to a large wooden windlass that washed ashore at Ludington State Park a few years ago.

(An April 2020 photo provided by the Port of Ludington Maritime Museum shows remnants of a shipwreck that surfaced on the shore of Lake Michigan near the entrance to Ludington State Park.)

However, Valerie van Heest with MSRA says their search for the ship’s identity is at an impasse. There are no known photos of any of the vessels to compare the wreckage to.

More than 300 ships have grounded on Michigan’s west coast within the last 170 years. The high waters have eroded away sand around several of those shipwrecks recently, including another one just north of Empire.

(An April 2020 photo provided by Luke Stier shows the bones of another shipwreck north of Empire.)

“There are new wrecks being uncovered quite often with this high water,” West Michigan Underwater Preserve President John Hanson told News 8.

>>Inside woodtv.com: Complete coverage of Michigan’s rising waters

As for the wreckage MSRA researched, Hanson says “Lake Michigan will take her back.”

“Trying to remove it and store it just doesn’t work out. The wood is water soaked and will become punk wood when it dries out. The entire wreck will fall apart. It has been tried. The expense to preserve it is incredible,” he explained in a Facebook post.

(An April 2020 photo provided by the Port of Ludington Maritime Museum shows remnants of a shipwreck that surfaced on the shore of Lake Michigan near the entrance to Ludington State Park.)

The good news: the shipwreck is located in the state protected West Michigan Underwater Preserve. Anyone who tries to remove a shipwreck without a permit or damages a shipwreck within a preserve faces possible punishment under Michigan law.

(A May 23, 2020 photo shows a no trespassing sign along the waters where a shipwreck surfaced near the entrance to Ludington State Park.)

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