Shipwrecks of Lake Michigan

Shipwrecks of Lake Michigan

Shipwrecks occur for many reasons, some as a result of running aground, collisions, poor design, poor build, fires and boiler explosions, some in open water with seas or wind that leads to a sinking.

In the days of wooden vessels, commonly they were overbuilt, not having materials testing and computers to design to a minimum acceptable tolerance.  However, as wood aged, dry-rot became an issue and regular replacement of wood in the hull, structure, deck and masts were critical. And profits always play tug a war against maintenance.

There are an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 shipwrecks in Lake Michigan with 1,000 still missing.

List of 38, Wikipedia

List of 167, Wisconsin Shipwrecks

List of 47 Michigan Shipwreck Research Association - Shipwrecks Found

Indiana Shipwrecks

Indiana Shipwrecks - Photo Gallery

Illinois Shipwrecks

List of 13, Windy City Wrecks

South End Shipwrecks - Map

3 Cool Lake Michigan Shipwreck Charts - To Buy


On April 17, 2015 with the ice just having melted off the surface of Lake Michigan, with the water too cold at 38-degrees Fahrenheit, algae had not started growing clouding the water, nor had storms stirred up the dirt on the bottom leaving the waters pristine clear.  The United States Coast Guard helicopter out of Traverse City, MI patrolling Lake Michigan between Sleeping Bear and Northport, MI took these incredible photos and provided the descriptions -




Rising Sun: This 133 foot long wooden steamer stranded just north of Pyramid Point on October 29, 1917. She went to pieces and her wreckage now rests in 6 to 12 feet of water.



James McBride: The 121 foot brig James McBride ran aground during a storm on October 19, 1857. Her remains lie in 5 to 15 feet of water near Sleeping Bear Point. The James McBride was built as a brig and measured 121 feet in length with a beam of 25 feet.  She was launched April fool’s day 1848.  Late in 1848, the McBride sailed to the Atlantic Ocean to pick up a cargo of salt at Turk Island.  On... her return she stopped at Nova Scotia and added codfish to her manifest.  She delivered her cargo to Chicago on December 4, 1848.  This trip created a sensation because it was believed to be the first cargo carried direct from the Atlantic to a Lake Michigan port.  In mid-October of 1857, the McBride journeyed to the Manitou Islands, where she took on a cargo of wood.  On her return trip to Chicago, on October 19, the McBride encountered a gale and was driven ashore near Sleeping Bear Dune.  Though her hull was only 9 years old, she was uninsured due to her deteriorated condition and was abandoned to the elements.  Her owner, John Stafford of Chicago expressed little concern, saying the vessel had returned more in profits than his investment of $4000 he had owned and operated the McBride.


...........And then there is a German WWI SUBMARINE on the bottom of Lake Michigan -

SM UC-97

...........And then there are the AIRPLANES on the bottom of Lake Michigan -

Michigan Shipwreck Research Association - Airplane Losses

WWII Navy Airplanes - Navy History and Heritage Command

...........And then there are the CARS on the bottom of Lake Michigan

Senator - Carrying 241 Nash automobiles

Milwaukee - 40 Nash, Rollins and Kissel cars -

Prins Willen V - Carrying auto parts

Flora M. Hill - Carrying carbide gas brass automobile lanterns


While the past included many Lake Cargo Schooners, as railway and semi-trucks for moving freight replaced much of commercial shipping, recreational boating took over.  And they are not immune to becoming shipwrecks.....

May 31, 2014 Boat sank, 1 survived, 3 expired

June 19, 2015 Four rescued just before boat sank Manitowoc, WI (USCG photo) and the boat was recovered the next day -


September 5, 2015 Beached and recovered

October 3, 2015 Sunk Monroe Harbor

August 1965 during the Columbia Yacht Club’s George Harvey S. Night Navigational Race, the course took the boats from downtown Chicago to the Calumet Gas buoy south, then north up to the Gross Point buoy, then south back to Chicago for a 66 mile race. 44 boats started and 11 boats crossed the finish line.

Winds out of the North created a run for the first leg, a beat for the second leg and a run to the finish. The winds had built from the start to around forty knots during the race. Many boats came back to the harbors with broken masts, booms, torn sails and rigging failures. Many sailors became seasick.

A 26’ all-aluminum boat by the name of Lorelei with a total of 4 crew on board was seen at the first turning mark off of Calumet. From that point on, the boat was never seen again. One crewmember, James Davis was found dead in his PFD one day later by passing boaters. The other crew, Murray Morrison (owner), Joseph Vermoch and Robert Hunyadi were never found.

Speculation has it that the hatch opening to below decks went down to the floor of the cockpit. If the cockpit filled with water and the hatch boards were removed, nothing would have prevented the water from going down below. The scuppers in the cockpit floor reportedly were small and too few. Draining the cockpit would have taken a long time, if it had filled.

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