Shipwreck found in Lake Superior was 292-foot barge that collided with vessel during storm

Photo credit: Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society

The Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society announced an exciting new find Wednesday after its discovery of a 292-foot Whaleback vessel that was found on the bottom of Lake Superior

Barge 129 as it is called was found along with eight other wrecks last year. The sunken ship was found 35 miles off Vermilion Point, which is on the east side of the Upper Peninsula near Sault Ste. Marie.

According to records, the barge sank 120 years ago while in tow of a steamer. It was loaded with iron ore when a powerful October storm rolled through. As is the case with so many other strong winds and smashing waves, the severe weather that hit the barge snapped the towline between the two vessels.

After that, Barge 129 was left to the mercy of the storm. While the Maunaloa turned around and attempted to reconnect the towline, the wind and waves instead slammed both ships together. The port side anchor of the steamer, or the anchor on the left side of the ship, ripped into the right side of Barge. 

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The collision ripped a hole big enough that Barge 129 began to sink. 

Photo credit: Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society

Its captain Josiah Bailey and his crew moved quickly to launch the lifeboat. Eventually the crew aboard the Maunaloa helped the others onto their ship just as the whaleback sank to the bottom.

"I’ve looked for this ship for so long because it was a Whaleback. I was pretty excited," said Marine Operations Director Darryl Ertel Jr. "I couldn’t wait to get the cameras on it."

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According to a release from the Shipwreck Society, their remote controlled vehicle showed quite a bit of devastation to the ship. "It’s totally destroyed on the bottom. It’s nowhere near intact. It’s at least 4 to 5 big pieces and thousands of little pieces. It’s just disintegrated," Ertel said.

Photo credit: Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society

Learn more about the shipwreck here.