A violent Lake Michigan storm in 1898 proved fatal for a great wooden behemoth steamship called L.R. Doty. Now, over a century later divers have found the ship fully intact off the coast of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
The president of the Wisconsin Underwater Archeology Association, Brendon Baillod, states that finding this big wooden steamship was important for historical significance because it was the last big wooden ship unaccounted for. “It was exhilarating” according to Baillod who has participated in at least a dozen such Lake Michigan shipwreck recoveries.
Historians note that there may be hundreds of Lake Michigan shipwrecks along the bottom of the fresh water lake. The Doty was carrying corn from South Chicago to Ontario, Canada when it sank during a vicious rain and sleet storm according to Baillod.
The ship was only five years old and should have been able to weather the storm since the hull had been reinforced with steel arches. The L.R Doty was 300 feet long, a big ship in those days built to withstand the 30 foot waves that hit it.
Baillod is a maritime historian and has studied the L.R. Doty Lake Michigan shipwreck for over 20 years. He believes the ship sank when it tried to come to the aid of a small schooner the Olive Jeanette, which the ship was towing before the line snapped during the storm. All of the Doty’s 17 crew members perished.
Deep sea technology has enabled maritime historians to discover other ships lost over a century ago. Just recently the HMS Investigator was located in Canada’s western arctic. The ship was abandoned in 1853.
A Milwaukee fisherman in 1991 had reported his fishing net being snagged about 300 feet underwater in the same location the ship was found. There was no investigation at the time because of the scarcity of deep sea technology.
Preliminary exploration over the past few months on the surface of the lake helped to locate the Doty. It was then that divers discovered a massive object on the lake’s floor. The ship is fully intact, sitting upright with it’s cargo of corn still in the cargo bay.
There are no plans to raise the ship anytime soon, and it will probably be preserved as is, where it is. The ship is perfectly preserved at the bottom of the cold fresh water lake and bringing it to the surface would expose it to air and deterioration.
Baillod believes there are some 500 more Michigan shipwrecks that are observable via divers and deep water submersibles. He is set to begin the search for another big ship called the Pere Marquette 18, a car ferry that sank in 1910.