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 shipwreck seen in the top photo is the James McBride, a 121-foot-long brig. She ran aground during a storm near Sleeping Bear Point in 1857 and now rests in 5 to 15 feet of water.

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.

Head over to The Smithsonian and NPR to learn more about these awesomely spooky sights.

[via The Smithsonian and NPR]


Loch Ard Gorge

Named after the clipper ship that ran aground in 1878 near the end of its three-month journey from England to Melbourne. Only two teenagers survived the wreck: Tom Pearce, a 15-year-old ship’s apprentice, and Eva Carmichael, a 17-year-old Irishwoman who was immigrating with her family. Story has it that Tom washed ashore first but upon hearing Eva’s cries, dove back into the ocean to rescue her before climbing out of this gorge to find help. Hailed as a hero, rumor has it that Tom’s only regret was that he never asked Eva to marry him before she returned to Ireland.

Shipwreck Coast of Victoria, Australia

The Shipwreck Coast of Victoria, Australia stretches from Moonlight Head to Cape Otway, a distance of approximately 130km. This coastline is accessible via the Great Ocean Road, and is home to the limestone formations called The Twelve Apostles.
Explorer Matthew Flinders said of the Shipwreck Coast, “I have seldom seen a more fearful section of coastline.”

London Arch

A natural arch in Port Campbell National Park. The formation was once a complete double-span natural bridge, named after its similarity to the London Bridge. In 1990, the arch closer to the shoreline collapsed, leaving two tourists stranded on the outer part until they were rescued by helicopter. Rumor has it that both were married and they were having an affair with one another, as their secrets were revealed on national television on this fateful day.