History | September 25, 2017 5:00 am

After 93 Years, Missing S.S. Clifton Finally Located at Bottom of Lake Huron

Steamship bound for Detroit mysteriously disappeared in 1924 with 28 sailors aboard.

The steamship S.S. Clifton left Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin on Sept. 21, 1924, with 28 sailors and a load of stone to deliver to Detroit. The ship successfully passed through the Straits of Mackinac around 10:20 a.m., writes the Detroit Free Press, and was last seen by a tug boat on Lake Huron that evening.

But then a “violent and unrelenting” storm blew in, and the ship was sunk, taking all 28 sailors on board down with her.

A search crew failed to locate the ship when it did not reach Detroit as scheduled. Eventually debris from the boat floated to the Canadian side of Lake Huron, indicating that the ship had indeed sunk. But no bodies ever floated ashore, according to the Free Press, indicating that the ship sank so quickly the sailors had no time to react or abandon the S.S. Clifton in lifeboats.

Why she sank, and where she ultimately ended up, has been a mystery for nearly a century. David Trotter, renowned author, deep diver, and Great Lakes shipwreck explorer told the Detroit Free Press that the S.S. Clifton is “easily number one” of the remaining shipwrecks left to find in the Great Lakes.

Trotter would know. He has spent 40 years searching for and discovering Great Lakes’ shipwrecks. His journey to find the Clifton began in 1987, but while he discovered many other shipwrecks along the way, this one continued to allude him. Until, that is, the summer of 2016. He and his team had discovered a different target, and happened upon the Clifton. The whaleback ship had traveled 100 miles south of where many people thought she had sunk, The Detroit Free Press reports.

Trotter kept his exciting discovery a secret so that he could get his dive team back to the site during the 2017 summer months, when the visibility would be better for investigating. The team made nine separate expeditions to the S.S. Clifton wreck site this year. Despite the extensive investigation, Trotter’s team could not find a mechanical reason for why the ship sunk. He plans to continue to venture to the ship and send divers down in order to get more information.

“The Clifton is one of the last mysteries on the lakes,” Trotter told the Free Press. “We’ve managed to solve it.”