Lake Michigan Shipwreck Contains $17 Million of Booze and Other Valuables 

That whiskey has been aging for almost two centuries

Scuba Diver Exploring a Large Shipwreck in the bahamas. A sunken treasure of booze and gold is planning to be excavated in Lake Michigan soon.
A recovery plan for the sunken treasure is already underway.
Stephen Frink/Getty Images

Whiskey that’s been aged at sea is nothing new, but most of the time it’s intentional. Not the case for the nearly 280 barrels of whiskey that were recently found in a shipwreck at the bottom of Lake Michigan, which have been maturing underwater for almost 170 years.

The ship in question is The Westmoreland, which sank during a storm on December 7, 1854, claiming 17 lives and $17 million worth of booze, gold and other valuables in today’s currency. It’s believed that the ship was transporting its cargo to soldiers stationed at a fort on Mackinac Island. It was left undisturbed until underwater explorer Ross Richardson discovered the wreckage in 2010. He now plans to unearth the cargo after receiving a permit. 

“We are a long way, maybe decades, from making that happen,” Richardson told The Mirror when asked about the recovery process. “Only time will tell if Westmoreland will share her secrets with us.”

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Most of Lake Michigan’s bottom is flat, but the ship sank in an area with an uneven surface of sand dunes and cliffs, which made search efforts quite difficult. But now the plan is underway to recover the large amounts of whiskey and highly valuable double eagle coins that were found in the wreckage. Richardson is most interested in the whiskey, especially because the genetic makeup of wheat and corn was very different in the 1800s than it is today. He also expects that whiskey collectors and distilleries will be interested in the resale value of the spirit (obviously).

Only time will tell if the salvaged whiskey is any good, but until then, our favorite new bottles of the moment should tide you over. 


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