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Historic Ironton Shipwreck Found Intact in Lake Huron

A team of scientists discovered the remains of a ship that disappeared over 126 years ago resting hundreds of feet below Lake Huron, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said in video released on March 1.

Researchers from Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, the state of Michigan, and Ocean Exploration Trust mapped the expedition in 2019 using “cutting-edge oceanographic technology” to discover and document the shipwreck, the NOAA said.

After two years, as the project neared its end, sonar imagery detected a shipwreck on the lakebed that matched the description of the Ironton – a cargo vessel that sank following a collision with a grain hauler in 1894.

The vessel’s captain and six sailors tried to climb into a lifeboat, but it was dragged to the bottom before they could detach it from the ship, according to local media reports. Two sailors were rescued, but the location of where the boat sank was unknown.

Footage posted to Facebook on March 1 shows the 191-foot ship still intact on the lakebed.

“Finding a shipwreck is an outrageously exciting moment, when you’re seeing it for the first time. Seeing the silhouette of something as it appears out of the darkness – it really is a moment of discovery,” Jeff Gray, superintendent of Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, said in the footage.

“We have not only located a pristine shipwreck lost for over a century, we are also learning more about one of our nation’s most important natural resources—the Great Lakes. This research will help protect Lake Huron and its rich history,” he added.

The NOAA did not disclose the location of the discovery to prevent divers from disturbing the site before video and photo documentation was finished. Credit: Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary via Storyful

Video transcript

STEPHANIE GANDULLA: The work that we're doing here today as part of the National Marine Sanctuary really has a rippling effect, to know that there are still discoveries to be made here in the depths of Lake Huron that will have interest to people around the world.

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The schooner Ironton had a seven-crew on board. And unfortunately, it was a tragic loss. And five of the sailors did go down with the ship. Two sailors survived and were able to give the account of the sinking.

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JEFF GRAY: Finding a shipwreck is an outrageously exciting moment. When you're seeing it for the first time, and it's the silhouette of something appears out of the darkness and seeing it, it really is a moment of discovery. We can use the excitement of these shipwrecks, the thrill of discovery to really introduce people to the Great Lakes and tell them how special they are.

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