These Ships Have Sailed

Lake Michigan's water is so clear right now that you can see right down to the shipwrecks.

Photo: Petty Officer Mitch Brown

For decades, and in some cases, centuries, ships of various shapes and sizes have been resting in peace on the muddy bottoms of the Great Lakes. The wrecks are usually obscured by ice cover in the winter and suspended sediment in the summer (as well as algal blooms that plague parts of the lakes in warmer months, thanks to sewage and runoff from farms). But this past weekend, the ice was gone and the water was clear, so the U.S. Coast Guard Air Station in Traverse City, Michigan, started snapping photos of sunken ships along the shoreline.

The Coast Guard dubbed its hauntingly beautiful images “Shipwreck Sunday” and threw the collection up on social media. Not much is known about most of the wrecks, but they do include one doomed vessel, the James McBride, which was thought to be the first to carry cargo from the Atlantic Ocean to Lake Michigan in 1848. Facebook commenters helped fill in some of the blanks, but most the historic details are still, well, watery. 

Photo: Petty Officer Mitch Brown

Photo: Petty Officer Mitch Brown

Photo: Petty Officer Mitch Brown

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