Shipwreck from 1881 Discovered Under Lake Michigan

The schooner Trinidad was found to be intact and in a remarkable state of preservation by the frigid waters.

Nearly 300 feet below the surface of Lake Michigan, the wreck of the schooner Trinidad has rested upright on the bottom for over 140 years, since 1881, in a state of almost perfect preservation. A team of maritime historians located the lost ship this past summer and were amazed at the images their equipment sent back of the wreckage.

Built in 1867 by Grand Island, New York shipwright William Keefe, the 140-foot-long schooner Trinidad carried freight (primarily grain) to various destinations along the shores of the Great Lakes during its 14 year career. On Friday, May 13, 1881, the Trinidad was heading south off the western shore of Lake Michigan, hauling a load of coal bound for Milwaukee. The ship developed a catastrophic leak which forced the nine man crew to abandon her about 10 miles off the coast of Algoma, WI, where it sank. Although a Newfoundland dog belonging to Captain John Higgins reportedly perished in the wreck, all of the crew reached safety after rowing for 8 hours in the ship’s yawl boat. (Higgins reported that he believed the sinking was the result of damage to the hull suffered a few days before as the ship passed through the icy Straits of Mackinack.)

Fast-forward to July, 2023: Wisconsin maritime historians Brendon Baillod and Robert Jaeck located the wreck using side-scan sonar technology after searching in an area which had been determined based on survivor accounts in historical records. Following their initial discovery, the site was further surveyed by an underwater archaeologist from the Wisconsin Historical Society. According to a news release, “the wreck is among the best-preserved shipwrecks in Wisconsin waters with her deck-house still intact, containing the crew’s possessions and her anchors and deck gear still present.”

Source: Associated Press

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