Missing ship found in Lake Superior after 130 years

Maxime Tamsett, CNNPublished 4th March 2022
Up next
(CNN) — Once thought to be lost forever, the 130-year-old wreckage of the ship Atlanta has finally been discovered at the bottom of Lake Superior.
Located 35 miles off Deer Park, Michigan, the "wonderfully preserved shipwreck," lies in the murky depths 650 feet below the lake's surface, according to the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society (GLSHS), which announced its discovery Thursday.
The GLSHS found the 172-foot schooner barge after using sonar in partnership with Marine Sonic Technology to map more than 2,500 miles of Lake Superior in the summer of 2021.
Time for research to give the wreck context accounts for the delay in announcing Atlanta's discovery, according to Corey Adkins, the communications and content director of GLSHS.
The ship's masts were lost in the storm. The wreck shows where the masts splintered off.
The ship's masts were lost in the storm. The wreck shows where the masts splintered off.
Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society
Carrying a load of coal, the Atlanta sank during a storm on May 4, 1891, while being towed by the steamer Wilhelm.
Caught in a northwest gale, not only did the towline snap, but so did Atlanta's sails, which left it at the mercy of the storm.
The seven-member crew loaded into a lifeboat and paddled for hours until arriving at the Crisp Point Life-Saving Station. While attempting to land the boat near the station, it overturned and only two members made it safely to shore.
Adkins said the detailed accounts of the wreck come from survivors' testimony recorded by the U.S. Life-Saving Service. The organization eventually became the U.S. Coast Guard.
A toilet at the bottom of Lake Superior is part of the Atlanta's wreckage.
A toilet at the bottom of Lake Superior is part of the Atlanta's wreckage.
Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society

Preserved in the cold

Images of the shipwreck taken by an ROV (Remote Operated Vehicle) show the remains of a wheel, toilets and broken masts.
According to Bruce Lynn, the executive director of the GLSHS, shipwrecks that can be clearly identified after this long are rare. The wreck is especially well-preserved thanks to the frigid waters of Lake Superior.
"It is truly ornate, and still beautiful after 130 years on the bottom of Lake Superior," Lynn said in a statement.
The survivors said all three masts broke off during the storm, according to GLSHS, and images of the shipwreck support those claims.
This photo of the Atlanta's sister ship, the Nivana, provides an idea of what was lost in the storm.
This photo of the Atlanta's sister ship, the Nivana, provides an idea of what was lost in the storm.
Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society
The Atlanta's name-board, however, remains intact and visible. The origin of the vessel's name, which matches that of Georgia's state capital hundreds of miles away, remains unclear.
While Adkins said the museum plans to make an exhibit about Atlanta, he explained that it's illegal to salvage anything from the wreck unless you have a special permit.
"That wreck is so deep compared to others we've found, we would like to leave this one undisturbed."
Divers would be hard-pressed to try reaching the depths of the wreck, and the GLSHS is not disclosing its exact location at this time.