An organization that documents shipwrecks said it has found the wreck of a 60-foot, single-masted sloop in Lake Michigan that may date back to the 1830s while looking for remnants of a plane that crashed into the lake more than 60 years ago.
The wreck was found off southwestern Michigan in water about 250 feet deep between Saugatuck and South Haven, Michigan Shipwreck Research Associates announced this week. The discovery was made while working with author Clive Cussler and his sonar operator Ralph Wilbanks of the National Underwater & Marine Agency.
The group was searching for the remnants of Northwest Airlines Flight 2501, which crashed into the lake in 1950, killing 58 people.
"Sometimes, when you're looking for one thing, you come across another," shipwreck researcher Craig Rich told The Grand Rapids Press of the discovery.
The vessel sits upright and is in relatively good condition, Holland-based Michigan Shipwreck Research Associates said. The sloop's construction and design are consistent with ships built in the 1820s and 1830s. Video of the wreck is expected to be shown April 16 at a social event in Holland.
"It's fascinating stuff," Cussler, who has worked with Michigan Shipwreck Research Associates to locate other wrecks, told the newspaper. "It's not the Titanic or anything like that. But it is rather historic just for the era in which it sank."
The ship likely was moving goods across the lake when it went down, Rich said, and it could be the oldest shipwreck discovered by Michigan Shipwreck Research Associates. Rich said the group hopes to identify the ship by the summer and begin researching its story. And the group plans to explore the wreck this year.
"If we can put a name to it, we'll figure out what the story is and, if not, it'll be a mystery wreck," he said.