Shipwreck Found in Lake Erie Might Be Oldest Ever Found There

Searchers think it's the Lake Serpent, which went down in 1829
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 23, 2018 11:07 AM CDT
Mystery of Schooner That Went Down in 1829 Could Finally Be Solved
Stock photo of Lake Erie.   (Getty Images/nayuco)

Shipwreck hunters are planning to excavate around a Lake Erie wreck this summer that they think could be the remains of a schooner that went down nearly two centuries ago. Its size, design, and location point toward it being a sailing ship called the Lake Serpent, which sank in 1829, the National Museum of the Great Lakes said Monday. Per the AP, the schooner was built in 1821 in Cleveland to carry cargo—produce, flour, whiskey, limestone—to ports along the lakes. It went down in a storm eight years later with a load of stone and a small crew near Kelleys Island off the Ohio shoreline. The bodies of the schooner's owners, brothers Ezra and Robert Wright, washed ashore in Lorain County a week later, reports; where exactly the ship went down—and what happened to the other two crew members—remained a mystery.

Tom Kowalczk, a Lake Erie wreck diver, spotted the wreckage on his sonar screen in 2015. Members of the Cleveland Underwater Explorers and the museum narrowed the list of ships it might be to three, with the Lake Serpent being the most likely answer. The ship had an unusual carving of a serpent's head on the bow, and the museum is raising money so that divers this summer can remove the sediment that surrounds the bow to see if they can find the serpent's head. They also plan to take measurements, examine how the ship was constructed, and look for artifacts that could ID the ship as the Lake Serpent. If it's confirmed to be the schooner, it will be the oldest shipwreck ever found in Lake Erie, per the museum's archaeology director. Searchers don't expect to find any bodies: "After 189 years, I don't expect there to be any organic material left," the director says.

(Read more shipwreck stories.)

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