Ship That Disappeared ‘Suddenly’ In Lake Superior Discovered 115 Years Later

We as people seem to love to discover and re-discover relics of the past or wonders of our world we haven’t known. As examples, only five percent of the ocean and up to three percent of space have been seen. Think about that. Just recently, on the other side of the world opposite of the pyramids, someone found a hidden underwater tower and canyon.

Exploration of our oceans and space may be taking some time, but we are making leeway with our lakes. New reports are coming in of the discovery of a ship in one of our Great Lakes. The point that should be noted is the ship disappeared over 115 years ago.

According to the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum, the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society (GLSHS) is the leader in the field of underwater exploration of shipwrecks in the Great Lakes. They recently found the wreckage of a 199-foot long schooner Nelson. It sunk near Grand Marai, Michigan, back in May of 1899. The Nelson is a large, three-masted schooner built earlier in 1866. Now, it rests at the bottom of Lake Superior in over 200 feet of cold water. The amazing part about this discovery is the Nelson is still intact after all this time.

Lake Superior
This is the side-sonar imagery of the Nelson as she rests in over 200 feet of cold Lake Superior water.

The GLSHS used a combination of historical research, technology, and teamwork coordinated through the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society’s Underwater Research to map out areas where ships were reported lost. Then they use a research vessel to scan those areas with a side-scan sonar to analyze the bottom of the lake and identify submerged wrecks.

The Huffington Post also reported the discovery of the Nelson, providing a historical account of when the ship first went down. Back in 1899, Captain A.E. White was on another ship, facing freezing rain and 50 mph winds, when he witnessed the Nelson go down. According to the Grand Rapids Press, White told a newspaper after the event that he wasn’t even aware the schooner was in danger.

“In a few minutes, she dove to the bottom. The crew did not even have time to lower their yawl boat. Not a bit of wreckage was left to mark the spot. The Nelson disappeared as suddenly as one could snuff a candle.”

Unfortunately, the Nelson’s sinking also comes with tragedy. There were ten people traveling on the ship, and only one of them survived; he was the one that wasn’t in the lifeboat. Bruce Lynn, executive director, explains this tragedy.

“Captain Haganey of the Nelson remained aboard his sinking ship to lower the life-boat, which contained the crew, his wife and infant child. Once lowered, Captain Haganey jumped overboard to gain the lifeboat himself. He landed in the water, and upon surfacing witnessed the stern of his vessel rise up as the ship dove for the bottom. The line was still attached to the lifeboat, which took his crew and family along with the sinking ship.”

Lake Superior
An undated photo of the Nelson shows the wreck underwater. This is the helm of the ship.

[Images via GLSHS]