Schooner that sank in Lake Michigan in 1881 found intact, miles off Wisconsin coastline

by Michael Nguyen
shipwreck discovery

A schooner that met its demise in Lake Michigan back in 1881 has been located by shipwreck hunters in an astonishing state of preservation. The vessel, named Trinidad, sank all those years ago, and its resting place, miles away from the Wisconsin coastline, still holds the belongings of its crew. Maritime historians from Wisconsin, Brendon Baillod and Robert Jaeck, accomplished this remarkable discovery in July, pinpointing the 156-year-old ship’s location using side-scan sonar technology. Drawing from survivor accounts found within historical records, they were able to locate the ship at a depth of around 270 feet (82 meters) off Algoma.

According to an official news release made on a Thursday, the Trinidad’s wreckage remains in remarkably good condition, making it one of the most well-preserved shipwrecks in the waters of Wisconsin. Even its deck-house remains intact, still safeguarding the possessions of the crew. Additionally, the ship’s anchors and deck gear are present, offering a glimpse into the vessel’s history and the lives of those who once sailed on it.

Originally constructed in 1867 by shipwright William Keefe in Grand Island, New York, the schooner measured 140 feet in length (43 meters). It was primarily employed in transporting grain between Milwaukee, Chicago, and Oswego, New York. However, its ill-fated journey occurred while it carried a load of coal destined for Milwaukee. On the early morning of May 13, 1881, tragedy struck as a catastrophic leak developed after the vessel had passed through the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal. The Trinidad ultimately succumbed to the waters about 10 miles (16.1 kilometers) off the Algoma coast. Along with it, the crew’s belongings and the captain’s cherished Newfoundland dog met their watery end.

Remarkably, Captain John Higgins and his crew of eight managed to survive the sinking. They navigated the waters in the ship’s yawl boat and arrived in Algoma, a location situated about 120 miles (193 kilometers) north of Milwaukee. Captain Higgins believed that the hull of the Trinidad had suffered damage a few days prior to the sinking, likely due to its passage through ice fields in the Straits of Mackinac.

Following the July discovery of the Trinidad, Baillod and Jaeck reported their findings to an underwater archaeologist working with the Wisconsin Historical Society. Subsequently, an underwater vehicle was employed to survey the site, confirming the vessel’s identity and documenting historically significant artifacts. To further enhance the experience for enthusiasts, a three-dimensional model of the ship has been developed, providing a virtual means to explore the site.

Looking ahead, Baillod and Jaeck intend to collaborate with the Wisconsin Historical Society to nominate the Trinidad’s resting place for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places, a fitting tribute to the vessel’s enduring legacy and the stories it continues to reveal about maritime history.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about shipwreck discovery

What is the significance of the Trinidad schooner discovery?

The discovery of the Trinidad schooner is significant due to its remarkable preservation since sinking in Lake Michigan in 1881. The shipwreck offers valuable insights into maritime history and the lives of its crew.

How was the Trinidad schooner located after all these years?

Maritime historians Brendon Baillod and Robert Jaeck used side-scan sonar technology to pinpoint the Trinidad’s location off Algoma. Survivor accounts from historical records aided in the successful identification.

What state of preservation is the Trinidad schooner in?

The Trinidad schooner remains remarkably well-preserved, with its deck-house intact and the crew’s possessions still on board. The anchors and deck gear are also present, providing a glimpse into the ship’s past.

What led to the sinking of the Trinidad schooner?

On its voyage carrying coal to Milwaukee, the Trinidad developed a catastrophic leak after passing through the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal. This led to its sinking about 10 miles off the Algoma coast in 1881.

How did the crew of the Trinidad survive the sinking?

Captain John Higgins and his crew of eight managed to survive by rowing for eight hours in the ship’s yawl boat. They eventually reached Algoma, more than 100 miles north of Milwaukee.

What plans are in place for the Trinidad schooner’s preservation?

Brendon Baillod and Robert Jaeck intend to work with the Wisconsin Historical Society to nominate the Trinidad’s site for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places. This recognition would honor its historical significance.

What technology was used to document the Trinidad schooner?

Following the discovery, an underwater vehicle was utilized to survey the site, verify the vessel’s identity, and document historic artifacts, providing a comprehensive understanding of the shipwreck.

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CryptoKing123 September 1, 2023 - 8:43 pm

dis story’s amazin’! Shipwreck wit crew stuff, so cool!

EconGeek September 1, 2023 - 9:48 pm

Ship sank in 1881, crew survived, crazy history unfoldin’.

PoliticObserver September 2, 2023 - 5:50 am

Historic find sheds light on past, maritime tales neva cease.

AutoEnthusiast September 2, 2023 - 3:19 pm

Even old ships got stories, like this one, interestin’ read.

JaneSmith September 2, 2023 - 4:16 pm

whoa, found a old boat at bottom of Lake Michigan? dat’s wild!


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