TBNMS deck

The cold fresh water in Lake Huron held the sunken ship Ironton intact for more than a century—including all three of her masts and a lifeboat that claimed five lives—but it also brought the ship’s destruction.

The Ironton sank in September 1894 after a collision with a steamer named Ohio. The shipwreck had been missing for about 120 years with only rumors of its location. Recently, researchers from the State of Michigan, the Ocean Exploration Trust and NOAA discovered the ship in what is known as Shipwreck Alley.

“Discoveries like this are fascinating because they connect people to Michigan’s long history of maritime innovation and commerce. The more we discover, the more we understand the lives of the men and women who farmed the Great Lakes,” said Sandra Clark, director of the Michigan History Center and co-director of the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. in a statement.

Shipwrecked Alley

Thunder Bay got its name “Shipwreck Alley” because of the nasty storms that were frequent in the area – 12 ships sank in one storm in 1913, killing 248 — and because of the congestion of merchant ships. Ships used this canal to transport goods such as wheat, coal, corn, lumber, and iron ore, and as it reached choke point, many ships congregated in a small area.

Today, Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary protects nearly 100 of these historic shipwrecks in Lake Huron, providing insight into a 200-year commercial shipping industry.

Read more: No one knows how many shipwrecks exist, so how do we find them?

what happened with Ironton

Hundreds of feet below the surface of the water Ironton is one of the historic shipwrecks that the sanctuary protects. The ship itself is 191 feet long and 772 tons, which can carry about 1,250 tons of coal.

The ship had been in transit for 22 years before the night of the wreck. On September 26, 1894, the steamer, which was then towing empty Ironton suddenly had a broken engine. To avoid collision with the disabled steamer, Ironton cut the tow rope. But the windy sea of ​​Lake Huron drove the ship straight to Ohiocausing a head-on impact.

The Ironton it sank as it moved out of sight. Nearby sailors rescued the ship’s 16 crew members Ohio who escaped in lifeboats. But the lifeboat for Ironton do some saving.

Like Ironton sank, all seven crewmen went aboard the lifeboat, but it was still tied to the vessel as it descended. Only two crew members survive, clinging to a seaman’s bag and box before a passing steamer is able to rescue them.

At the discovery of Irontonresearchers found the lifeboat still attached to the vessel.

The lifeboat is still attached to the Ironton ship at the bottom of Thunder Bay. (Credit: Ocean Exploration Trust/NOAA)

What Ironton Tell us

Using the latest innovation in underwater mapping technology, Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary along with the Ocean Exploration Trust set out to find the sunken ship in 2019. Researchers had discovered Ohio in 2017, which helped guide the mapping expedition to Ironton.

“The discovery illustrates how we can use the past to create a better future,” Jeff Gray, superintendent of the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, said in a statement.

An underwater robot confirmed the identity of the craft and the team returned to the site in 2021 to investigate further.

What they found was an entire ship standing upright, preserved by the fresh water.

“Not only have we discovered a pristine shipwreck lost for more than a century, but we are also learning more about one of our nation’s most important natural resources, the Great Lakes.” This research will help protect Lake Huron and its rich history,” Gray said in a statement.

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