The waters of the Great Lakes were dense with both commercial and passernger ship traffic in the 1900s. Fog, wind, dangerous conditions, and captains with more greed than sense meant frequent disaster for many boats crossing the Great Lakes. As tragic as these wrecks were, each shipwreck has left lake divers with a glimpse into the past. Thousands of ships have met their fate in these massive water bodies, leaving incredible places for modern day underwater explorers to enjoy some Great Lakes wreck diving.
Any mention of wreck dives of the Great Lakes would be incomplete without a mention of the Scottish crafted Gunilda. Wrecked on the northern section of Lake Superior, the Gunilda is so well preserved if it weren’t submerged in water, one might be able to sail the ship away. Laid to rest at 80 meters under the surface, the Cousteau Society declared the Gunilda one of the best preserved shipwrecks on Earth. Though there have been many salvage efforts, none have been successful. The only way to properly see this luxury steam yacht is to suit up and dive.
Though most ships lost in the Great Lakes are the result of storms or poor judgment, the passenger steamship Seabird was laid to rest by one simple human error. On a windy morning in 1868, a porter went to the deck to empty a few buckets of burning embers from the coal fired engines into the lake. Perhaps he was inexperienced, or perhaps he was just groggy from the early morning work, but the porter in question emptied the buckets of burning coals into the wind. After less than an hour, the Seabird made her final stop at the bottom of Lake Michigan. Now just a quick day-trip from Chicago, the Seabird is now considered one of the best places for Great Lakes wreck diving.
Though diving the L.R. Doty is an advanced adventure due to her depth, it is worth it for those with the training. The L.R. Doty sits over 300 ft below the surface off the coast of Wisconsin. Launched in 1893, the ill-fated L.R. Doty only made it 5 years before meeting her end during a heavy storm on Lake Michigan. The wreck site is extraordinarily well preserved. Divers can see her rudders as well as water depth markings, bow and anchors. Going inside the wreck is possible, but not advisable due to lack of visibility.
Images via Wikipedia