3 new shipwrecks identified in Lake Superior; here are their stories

Frank Wheeler wreckage
Posted at 2:27 PM, Oct 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-27 14:27:57-04

(WXYZ) — The Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society announced this week they have discovered three new shipwrecks in Lake Superior.

According to the society, the 1800s-era shipwrecks were found in the vicinity of Grand Marais, Michigan. More were located, but they are awaiting positive identification.

The first shipwreck happened on Aug. 25, 1883, when the steamship M.M. Drake was towing the schooner Dot with a load of iron ore. The Dot started taking on water, and Captain Jones of the Dot called the M.M. Drake, which came alongside the Dot and took the crew off. All were rescued.

The Dot was built in St. Catharines, Ontario in 1865 and her remains are in over 350 feet of water.

Schooner Dot wreckage
Schooner Dot wreckage 2

The second shipwreck happened on Sept. 29, 1885, when the Frank W. Wheeler schooner barge was being towed by the steamer Kittie M. Forbes. A gale swept across Lake Superior and the ships struggled until the Wheeler started sinking. The crew was able to get into a lifeboat, and 15 minutes later, the boat sank near Grand Island, which is near present-day Munising. The society said a number of explosions were heard as the ship went underwater. This shipwreck was found in over 600 feet of water.

Frank Wheeler wreckage

Finally, the third shipwreck was from the schooner barge, Michigan, which was also being towed by the M.M. Drake on Oct. 2, 1901. The Drake was the same steamer that towed the Dot.

It was near Vermillion Point, west of Whitefish Point, and both vessels were in rough water. The Michigan's hold reportedly started filling with water, and the Drake was able to get next to the Michigan and the ship's crew was able to jump onto the Drake.

Shortly after, a massive wave smashed both ships together and destroyed the Drake's smokestack, and the ship was left without steam pressure. Waves went over the Drake's deck and both ship's crews were in danger. Two steel steamers nearby were able to rescue the crew.

Both the Drake and the Michigan sank, and the Michigan's cook, Harry Brown, was the only casualty. The Drake's remains were discovered in 1978. The Michiigan's hull was found in 650 feet of water.

Schooner Michigan historical photo

The society searched the areas where the ships were reported lost and then used side-scan sonar to analyze the lake's bottom.

“We have well over 2,500 miles of searching this year alone. We're searching 100 miles a day. We're traveling at over 9 miles an hour as we're searching and we're seeing great detail on the bottom, it's amazing," Society Marine Operations Director Darryl Ertel said in a release.