Century-old shipwrecks spotted by Coast Guard aircraft

Chuck Bednar for redOrbit.com – @BednarChuck

With the ice that had been covering Lake Michigan gone and the waters unusually clear, a US Coast Guard helicopter crew flying a routine patrol mission discovered and captured images of several shipwrecks, some more than a century old, along the shoreline.

The helicopter crew was from the Traverse City, Michigan station, and according to Discovery News, they took several photos of the wrecks during the patrol mission on Friday, posted them on their Facebook page on Sunday, and asked for assistance in identifying them.

James McBride

As it turns out, one of the wrecks was more than 150 years old: the James McBride, a 121-foot brig that launched on April 1, 1848. It ran aground in shallow water near a location known as Sleeping Bear Point after it encountered a gale on October 19, 1857 while transporting a cargo of wood to Chicago from the Manitou Islands, the website explained.

shipwrecks lake michigan

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. (Credit: US Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City)

According to the Coast Guard, the James McBride had a beam of 25 feet, and in late 1848, the vessel embarked on a journey that took it to Turk Island in the Atlantic Ocean to pick up a cargo of salt, then to Nova Scotia where it added codfish, and finally to Chicago to deliver its cargo. It was believed to be the first cargo carried directly from the Atlantic to a Lake Michigan port.

When it sank following its ill-fated October 1957 journey, the ship was abandoned due to the fact that, despite only being nine years old, its condition had deteriorated and it was uninsured. Her owner, Chicago’s John Stafford, was unconcerned with the vessel’s fate, however, noting that it had more than given him a return on his $4,000 investment, they added.

The Rising Sun

Another one of the shipwrecks, according to Discovery News, was a 133-foot-long wooden steamer called the Rising Sun, which broke up on October 29, 1917 and now rests in six- to 12-foot deep waters to the north of Pyramid Point. It reportedly sank after being caught in a winter storm on a voyage to gather potatoes, rutabagas and lumber from High Island.

The crew of the Rising Sun attempted to reach the shore, but ran aground when an anchor was unable to catch hold, and was then caught in an area where it was repeatedly slammed into the bottom of the lake by crashing waves. An article by local historian George Weeks said that all 32 crewmembers were eventually saved after lifeboats were deployed and shoreline residents came to the rescue, followed later by Coast Guard personnel.


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