Chesterton Tribune

Diver finds and documents three Lake Michigan shipwrecks

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TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — Ross Richardson could have removed some of the artifacts from three shipwrecks he found not far from the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in West Michigan.

Instead, the diver from Benzie County’s Lake Ann in the northwest corner of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula left them in Lake Michigan.

“My trophies are the stories, the videos and the photos I can share with people,” he told the Traverse City Record-Eagle for a story Saturday.

Richardson decided to search that part of Lake Michigan — about 135 miles north of Grand Rapids — after a piece of wreckage washed ashore last year.

Using side-scan sonar, Richardson found what he sought in about 25 feet of water, a quarter-mile offshore. Diving there over the summer, he claims to be the first to document the wrecks.

“It’s a very remote area, and there’s not a lot of boat traffic,” he told the newspaper. “Someone might have seen them over the years, but they’ve never been documented.”

Richardson estimated that the wrecks may date to the second half of the 19th century. One could have been a steam-powered ship. The other two appear to have been sailing vessels. One of the ships has numerous artifacts.

“We think it’s great that he’s bringing this information to light,” Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore deputy superintendent Tom Ulrich said. “Our experience has been that the divers and snorkelers who dive these wrecks are often their ... fiercest protectors.”

Richardson is working with officials to identify the wrecks, and hopes to help in their preservation and promotion.

“I approach it from the point of view of what I want to look at, and that’s what I like to share,” he said.

Last year, he discovered the Westmoreland in Lake Michigan near the Leelanau Peninsula. The 200-foot steamer sank during a storm in 1854. Richardson has not said much about the Westmoreland’s exact location because he doesn’t want other divers to remove artifacts.


Posted 10/31/2011