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Photos: 150-Year-Old Shipwreck Discovered in Lake Superior

Wreck of wooden ship underwater
???????All images courtesy Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society

Published Feb 8, 2023 4:13 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society has discovered the remains of one of the oldest vessels to sink in Lake Superior, the sailing barquetine Nucleus

The wreck was found in 600 feet of water about 40 miles off Vermilion Point, Wisconsin, on the lake's hazardous "shipwreck coast." The area is known to contain about 200 wrecks from different eras of Great Lakes shipping history.

Nucleus went down in a storm on September 14, 1869, but the vessel already had an ill-starred reputation before her loss. The barquetine had sunk twice previously and been refloated, and it had collided with and sunk a sidewheeler in Lake Huron in 1854. 

On her final voyage in Lake Superior, Nucleus began to take on water. The master decided to abandon ship into the barquetine's lifeboat, and the crew all safely got away before the Nucleus went down. They were picked up by the schooner Worthington a few hours later (though another vessel simply passed them by first). 

The find is the latest in a series that the society has revealed from the results of a sonar survey program conducted in the summer of 2021. The wreck's identity was confirmed in 2022 using an ROV. The inspection revealed that a good part of its structure had survived the sinking, including the bow. 

"This is a pretty significant shipwreck . . . considering its age, the fact that it is a barquentine and we can’t overlook the vessel’s checkered past. The wreck site is littered with shovels too . . . and a few dinner plates, which speaks to their work and shipboard life," said Bruce Lynn, the society's executive director. 

All images courtesy Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society