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Great Lakes Shipwreck News & Rumor Fall 2003

By Brendon Baillod

2003 has been an exciting year in the Great Lakes maritime history community. Several important new wrecks have been located and there were many interesting developments.

In early 2003 the wreck of the 1889 three masted schooner Maggie L off Clayton, NY was damaged by a group of divers who removed the ship's anchor. The State of New York, who ostensibly has stewardship of the wreck, has yet to take any action.

In early 2003 divers Rob Polich and Bill Prince announced they had staged a successful dive to the wreck of the scow schooner Tennie & Laura in 310 ft. of water off Port Washington, Wisconsin. First located during the search for the Linda E in 1999, the wreck is upright and intact with her nameboard bearing her name.

The untimely death of legendary Great Lakes wreckhunter and marine surveyor, Dick Race resulted in the open market sale of his massive collection of Great Lakes shipwreck artifacts. Because of the passage of laws protecting many Great Lakes wrecks, this may be the last large group of Great Lakes shipwreck artifacts offered for public sale.

In April of 2003, the Underwater Archeology Society of Chicago in cooperation with several other Chicago area dive groups successfully sunk the old ferry City of the Straits as a Chicago area dive attraction. The Straits had been slated for a sinking in Wisconsin Waters but red tape prevented the sinking and the Chicago groups were able to save the project.

In April of 2003, local beachcombers near the Big Sable Point Light came upon the remains of a wooden ship emerging from the beach. The wreck, which has appeared before, is thought to be that of the little schooner May Cornell.

Michigan Shipwreck Research Associates announced in 2003 that they had officially identified the deep wreck discovered off Holland, Michigan by David Trotter as the H.C. Akeley. The big steamer was a victim of the big blow of 1880. Survey work on the Akeley site is ongoing.

Historian Bob Myers of the Berrien County Historical Society released his excellent book "Lost on Lake Michigan: Shipwrecks of Berrien County," which details every known total loss in Berrien County waters. Although not a dive guide, the book uncovers many previously unknown historical accounts of wrecks.

Great Lakes videographer Ric Mixter released his excellent documentary "Safe Ashore" about the Armistice Day Storm. Mixter was able to locate original 1940 film footage of the legendary rescue of the Novadoc crew by the fish tug Three Brothers. Interestingly, the film shows that the lake was nearly calm by the time the tug went out to take the crew off.

The ongoing court case between wreckhunter Paul Ehorn and the State of Wisconsin took another turn in 2003 when Ehorn was denied title to the wreck. The charges against Ehorn were dropped however, because the State was unable to prove it owned the wreck when Ehorn removed a porthole from it. The judge held that the State's ex post facto filing for National Register status didn't meet the requirements as defined in the Abandoned Shipwreck Act. As of this writing, the case is still simmering, awaiting appeals.

An interesting development occurred in June when Underwater Research Associates tried a bold experiment. They offered the coordinates for two intact deep wrecks for sale on ebay. The coordinates for the John McPhail and James Curran failed to attract a bidder at a $100 opener. It would have been a nice way to defray wreckhunting expenses, but divers are a cheap bunch.

In July 2003, Muskegon beachcomber Dave Miesch found his second wreck in two years when he came across a the broken remains of a small steamer off Clay Banks Township Park south of Pentwater, Michigan. Brendon Baillod and divers from MSRA identified the little steamer as the Daisy Day, which stranded and broke up there in 1891. Remains include an anchor, keel/ribs, propeller and a large boiler/condenser. The site is almost completely buried in sand.

URA released the location of the wreck of the W.C. Franz in August 2003. The wreck had been located the previous year and filmed by URA. The wreck, in 230 ft. of water is located at 44 38 875/082 54 392 or LORAN 30768.9/48893.5.

In late August 2003, the Cedarville claimed another victim when diver Robert Harris died while diving the wreck, most likely from a heart attack. He had been using a rebreather and was a very experienced diver.

The deep wreck discovered off Manitowoc in 1994 was surveyed with side scan and photographed by divers in 2003, revealing that the ship's wheel had in fact, been stolen, as was reported in the Fall of 2002. The survey work reveals a two masted schooner of very early design, c. 1830 - 1850. Initial impressions are that she's too small to be the Gallinipper, as has been reported, but her features, age and position match the Gallinipper almost perfectly and no vessels of similar vintage are known to have gone down in the immediate area. More work will be done on this site in 2004. Shame on whoever took the wheel.

In September 2003, URA announced the discovery of the big steamer Frank H. Goodyear in Lake Huron. Lost in 1910, the Goodyear took 19 lives when she went down. She lies in deep water and her location has not yet been released.

In September 2003, Milwaukee charter captain and wreck hunter Jerry Guyer announced the discovery of a small wreck off the Milwaukee breakwall. The vessel is a steamer of about 50 ft in length with a small steam engine and propeller still present. She appears to be a large steam powered fish tug of late 19th century build, but remains unidentified.

In September 2003, the remains of a 55 - 65 ft. steamer were located and surveyed in Eagle Harbor on Michigan's Keweenaw Peninsula by Brendon Baillod. The vessel remains are burned and all hardware has been salvaged. The identity of this vessel remains a mystery and no corresponding historical losses or abandonments are recorded. Any help in identifying the vessel would be appreciated.

In October 2003, Grand Marais, Michigan area residents noticed the remains of a shipwreck off shore about 6 miles east of the harbor. The remains, thought to be the schooner Annie M. Peterson attracted quite a bit of attention and are believed to have become uncovered in the past.

Also in October, New York wreck hunters Jim Kennard and Dan Scoville announced the discovery of the steamer Homer Warren in deep water off Pultneyville, New York. The 140 year old wreck is reportedly in excellent condition and Kennard & Scoville have put sidescans and footage of the find online. The location has not been released.

Rumors resurfaced in 2003 about the possible discovery of the steamer James C. Carruthers, lost in the Big Storm of 1913 on Lake Huron. Despite the persistent rumors, nobody has stepped forward to claim the discovery and it is believe to be wishful thinking resulting from the discovery of a barge offshore near Goderich, Ontario.

Also in October, Michigan wreckhunters Stan Stock & Thaddius Bedford announced the discovery of the schooner Kyle Spangler in deep water off Thunder Bay Island, Lake Huron. The Spangler was lost in 1860 and is one of the most historic wrecks to be discovered in recent years. She is reportedly in excellent condition and Stock & Bedford have filmed her extensively. Her location has not been released.

Not to be outdone, in October 2003, western Michigan wreck hunter Chuck Larson announced the discovery of three separate wrecks in the depths off the Holland Michigan area. Sidescans appear inconclusive as to the identity of the remains, but they appear to be wrecks. In an unprecedented move, Larson offered to sell the first dives on the wreck and positions on the survey team for large sums of money. It is not known if he had any takers. We'll eagerly await the identification of the remains found by Mr. Larson.

Paul Ehorn reported in November the passing of two old time divers. Captain Bob Wolff of the Ann B and Emmett Moneyhun both passed away this year. They were well known to many Lake Michigan divers.

In November 2003, Illinois salvor Harry Zych revealed a compelling sidescan image he shot of a large shipwreck in deep water off the Canadian shore of Lake Huron. The image is speculated to be of the James C. Carruthers, but was unable to be ground truthed due to weather conditions at the time.

If you have info. for Great Lakes Shipwreck News & Rumor, please email Brendon Baillod.

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2003 Great Lakes Maritime Press, Madison, Wisconsin