1861 shipwreck found in Lake Huron


A diver explores the wreck of the Keystone State, which sank in Lake Huron in 1861. One of the ship’s two large wheels, which propelled it through the water, can be seen in the background. (Eric Seals/Detroit Free Press via Associated Press)

The wreckage of a wooden steamship that sank 152 years ago in a storm on Lake Huron with no survivors has been found, a Michigan explorer said Monday.

What exactly happened to the ship on a voyage to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, from Detroit, Michigan, remains a mystery, said David Trotter, whose team found the wreck in July.

The 288-foot-long side-wheeler, named the Keystone State, hit rough weather and was last seen on November 8 or 9 in 1861, Trotter said. The ship’s 33 passengers and crew members were also lost.

“She literally sailed into oblivion. Nobody heard anything from her,” Trotter said in a telephone interview.

The wreck was found in 175 feet of water 30 miles northeast of Harrisville, a small city north of Lansing, Michigan. The location indicates that the ship had been 50 miles off course.

Trotter, 72, has found more than 100 shipwrecks in the Great Lakes over the past four decades.

“It’s a great chance to touch history, to swim back into time,” Trotter said, explaining why he searches for shipwrecks.

The ship typically moved immigrants to the west and cargo to the east, according to Trotter. On its final voyage, the ship reportedly was carrying farm equipment, odd cargo for that time of the year, he said.

The ship departed in a hurry, with no lifeboats aboard, he added.

“That adds to the mystery of her leaving,” Trotter said.

Trotter said legend has it that the ship may actually have been carrying equipment for the Civil War or gold bullion, though he said he has found neither military equipment nor gold on the wreck.

— Reuters

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