Scientists Discover Preserved Shipwreck in Lake Huron

The Ironton has been underwater for over a century

Ironton shipwreck
The wreck of the Ironton.
NOAA/ Undersea Vehicles Program UNCW

Travel to the shores of Lake Huron in northeastern Michigan and you’ll find yourself in close proximity to the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. And if you travel to the bottom of Lake Huron in the midst of the sanctuary in question, you might just see some shipwrecks and other relics of the region’s maritime history. A group of scientists representing the NOAA, the Ocean Exploration Trust and the state of Michigan recently discovered the wreck of the Ironton there — a vessel that’s been at the bottom of the lake since late in the 19th century.

What’s especially noteworthy about this shipwreck is the degree to which it’s been preserved. As an article in Smithsonian Magazine details, the combination of the water temperature and the fact that Lake Huron is a freshwater lake have helped to keep the Ironton far more preserved than you might expect for a boat that’s been underwater for over a century.

As an announcement of the shipwreck’s discovery from the NOAA explains, the Ironton sank in 1894, with two of its five crew members killed in the process. The ship sank after colliding with another vessel, the Ohio — and, decades later, exploration of the lake floor led to the discovery of the Ironton after the same group of researchers found the wreck of the Ohio.

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The process by which the shipwreck was discovered included a number of different forms of technology, including mapping software and undersea vehicles. It’s an example of using 21st century technology to illuminate 19th century history.

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