Museum: We're Pretty Sure It's Lake Erie's Oldest Wreck

Lake Serpent schooner that sank in 1829 believed to have been found
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 5, 2018 11:22 AM CDT

(Newser) – Shipwreck hunters who spent eight days this summer unearthing and examining the remains of a schooner in Lake Erie in Ohio think it's most likely a sailing ship that sank nearly two centuries ago, per the AP. That would make the wreckage the oldest ever found in the shallowest of the Great Lakes. But there's a bit of debate among the marine archaeologists and shipwreck hunters who are trying to identify the wreck about how confident they are it is indeed the Lake Serpent that sank in 1829. So far, several signs point to a match, according to the National Museum of the Great Lakes, which on Thursday released the findings from its work this summer. For starters, the site is near where the Lake Serpent was thought to have gone down near Kelleys Island off the Ohio shoreline.

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Divers also determined that the wreck's size and stone cargo point to it being Lake Serpent, and they uncovered what appears to be a carving at the ship's bow. Historical records show the Lake Serpent had a serpent's head carved near the front, an unusual feature for a vessel of that era. Carrie Sowden, the Great Lakes museum's archaeology director, said it all adds up, but she was hesitant to say that it's definitely the Lake Serpent. "I don't know what else it could be, but there's still enough unknown that we haven't seen," she said, adding that divers plan to take another look next year. The schooner was built in 1821 in Cleveland at a time when the city had less than 1,000 residents. Its job was to carry cargo—produce, flour, whiskey, limestone—to ports along the lakes.

(Read more shipwreck stories.)

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