Ship That Met Tragic End in Lake Huron Is Found

Ironton's captain, some crew got into a lifeboat that was pulled to bottom
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 1, 2023 10:05 AM CST
Ship That Met Tragic End in Lake Huron Is Found
In this image taken from video, the bowsprit of the Ironton is seen in Lake Huron off Michigan's east coast in a June 2021 photo.   (Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary via AP)

Though it went down in a perilous swath of northern Lake Huron that has devoured many a ship, the Ironton's fate seems particularly cruel. The 191-foot cargo vessel collided with a grain hauler on a blustery night in September 1894, sinking both. The Ironton's captain and six sailors clambered into a lifeboat, but it was dragged to the bottom before they could detach it from the ship. Only two crewmen survived. The gravesite long eluded shipwreck hunters—until now, reports the AP.

A team of historians, underwater archaeologists, and technicians located the wreckage in 2019 and deployed remotely controlled cameras to scan and document it, Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary Superintendent Jeff Gray said in an AP interview. The Michigan-based sanctuary plans to reveal the location in coming months and is considering placing a mooring buoy at the site. Officials have kept the find secret to prevent divers from disturbing the site before video and photo documentation is finished.

Video footage shows the Ironton sitting upright on the lake bottom, hundreds of feet down—"remarkably preserved" by the cold, fresh water like many other Great Lakes shipwrecks, Gray said. No human remains were seen. But the lifeboat remains tethered to the bigger vessel, a poignant confirmation of witness accounts from 128 years ago. The search and inspections involved a number of organizations, including Ocean Exploration Trust, founded by Robert Ballard, who located the sunken wreckage of the Titanic and the German battleship Bismarck.

story continues below

Nearly 200 shipwrecks are believed to rest within or nearby the boundaries of the sanctuary, which includes the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center in Alpena and some 4,300 square miles of northwestern Lake Huron. Several factors—including heavy boat traffic that intersected in the area and notoriously unstable weather—made the zone a "shipwreck alley" for more than two centuries, until modern navigation and weather forecasting reduced the danger. (Read more on the night the Ironton went down here.)

We use cookies. By Clicking "OK" or any content on this site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. Read more in our privacy policy.
Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.