Lake Michigan is home to roughly 1,500 shipwrecks and it recently treated members of the U.S. Coast Guard to a rare glimpse of some of its ghostly residents, at least one of which dates back to the mid-19th century. The end of winter means the ice has melted from the lake’s surface, but the temperature is still cool enough that the annual algae blooms have not yet occurred. Add to that a still lake bed (stirred up sediment clouds the water) and a beautifully clear and sunny day and the conditions were just right for the lake to appear perfectly clear. A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter crew took these haunting aerial photos during a recent routine patrol on April 17, 2015:
The images come from the area near Sleeping Bear Point known as the Manitou Passage Underwater Preserve, which is “one of the richest areas in Michigan for shipwreck diving,” according to the preserve’s website. The lumber industry put the area on a shipping route. The North and South Manitou Islands, just north of the point, provided a somewhat sheltered area for ships hiding from storms.
According to one of the crew members, Lt. Cmdr. Charlie Wilson, spotting shipwrecks from their air over Lake Michigan is fairly common, “but not in the numbers we saw on that flight.”
The 4th photo shows what remains of the Rising Sun, a 133-foot-long wooden steamer that was stranded north of Pyramid Point on October 29, 1917. All 32 people aboard were saved and she went to pieces and now rests in 6 to 12 feet of water.