Newly-Discovered Lake Huron Shipwreck Paints Grim Picture of Vessel’s Final Moments

The deck of the Ironton beneath Lake Huron.
The deck of the Ironton beneath Lake Huron. / NOAA/ Undersea Vehicles Program UNCW

A 19th-century shipwreck at the bottom of Lake Huron tells a grim story. Behind the impressively preserved remains of the Ironton—a cargo vessel that collided with a grain hauler in 1894—sits an empty life boat. The raft is tethered to the stern, just as it was when it was dragged down by the sinking ship nearly 130 years ago, dooming five of the seven crewmen on board. After lying on the lakebed undisturbed for more than a century, the shipwreck has been discovered by a group of researchers, confirming its tragic fate, the Associated Press reports. 

The Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and their partners found the Ironton in 2019, but waited four years to announce the discovery to give the team time to study the wreck. The frigid waters of the Great Lake kept the vessel in excellent condition. The group of historians, archaeologists, and technicians worked with Ocean Exploration Trust, an organization founded by oceanographer Robert Ballard, who discovered the RMS Titanic. They’ve spent the last four years scanning, photographing, and documenting the Lake Huron wreck. You can see underwater footage of the ship below.

The Ironton had been sailing for more than two decades when it ran into the 203-foot long wooden freighter named Ohio, tearing a 12-foot hole in its hull. The Ohio’s 16 crew members escaped onto rafts before the ship went under, but the men onboard the Ironton weren’t as lucky. They piled into the lifeboat, but according to the wreck’s two survivors, they failed to untie it before the ship plunged into the lake. The scene discovered in 2019 finally confirms those eyewitness accounts. 

The Ironton’s final resting place remains undisclosed as the team continues their research. The Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary is considering sharing the location to the public later this year, with a mooring buoy possibly marking its spot on the lake.

[h/t AP]