"Of the remaining shipwrecks left to find in the Great Lakes, the Clifton would easily be number one," says shipwreck hunter David Trotter. That's because the disappearance of the SS Clifton in 1924 is "one of the Great Lakes' greatest mysteries"—and one that Trotter now says he has partially solved. During a survey of Lake Huron in June 2016, Trotter and his team discovered two shipwrecked schooners along with a third target they decided to investigate later. Upon returning to the site in September 2016, divers identified it as a whaleback steamer—and Trotter was overwhelmed. "The Clifton was the only whaleback ship left in Lake Huron that hadn't already been found," he tells WZZM for the first time. He was sure it was the Clifton, a ship he had been searching for since 1987.
The stone spilled on the lake bottom was another giveaway as the 300-foot long ship had been carrying the material from Sturgeon Bay to Detroit when it vanished. But its location was a surprise. It came to rest 100 miles south of its last known location in upper Lake Huron, far from the area where many believed it sank—going down so quickly in a storm that none of its 28 sailors could escape. But "the description of her loss was so oblique as to possibilities that you knew you had a tremendous area to cover," says Trotter. He never expected to find it by accident. He now has another mystery to solve: what caused the Clifton to sink. The only damage found by divers was to the bow, likely caused when the ship hit the lake bottom. WZZM has more on the wreck—and a lone suitcase.