Skip to Main

Northern Michigan in Focus: Lake Michigan Shipwreck Discovery

Imagine finding something that’s been lost for more than a century and finding it in almost perfect condition.

That’s what happened to someone recently on Lake Michigan.

Corey Adkins explains in this week’s Northern Michigan in Focus.

“It’s what you call a shipwreck graveyard. There are many undiscovered wrecks out there, and many have been discovered, but they just litter the bottom,” said author and shipwreck hunter Ross Richardson.

These days it’s considered one of the most beautiful places on the planet. But in the great day of sail, it’s where loss has happened.

Ross Richardson was out looking for wrecks in 2018 and came across a sonar image that shocked him.

“It’s probably one of the best preserved shipwrecks on the planet, especially from the 1800s. Literally, you can raise it and sail it away. It’s in beautiful shape. We’ve never seen a shipwreck in this great shape,” explained Ross.

They discovered the W.C. Kimball that sank in May of 1891 off the Manitou Islands, almost perfectly preserved more than 300 feet below the surface of Lake Michigan.

Even though the 90+ foot masts are still standing proudly, one of the only things gone is the sails.

“The sails rotted away and all the sail hardware is right on the deck where you would expect it to be. The hatches are still in place,” said Ross.

The 65 foot schooner was home to a captain and three crew, and sadly the lifeboat that never got to be used. An ore is still sitting alone in the hull after 129 years.

“Even the life boat is still there, which adds to the mystery. If your ship is sinking, wouldn’t you get on that lifeboat?” said Ross.

Four men died that day. The Kimball’s home port was Northport. From what we are told, one of the men was from here.

“When you think what the impact had on the communities and families. Even generations later, they hear the stories of an uncle or grandfather who disappeared out in the Lakes. It does mean something,” explained Ross.

That’s why Ross is partnering with the Grand Traverse Lighthouse Museum on February 19 for a special program called “.”

The money raised is going to something very cool at the Grand Traverse Lighthouse Museum.

“Based upon Ross’ new shipwreck discovery, which is amazing, we are partnering with him to do a program at the Milliken Auditorium at the Dennos Museum here in Traverse City on February 19, which is a Wednesday night, at 7 p.m., and this will be a fundraiser for our shipwreck expeditions which will be doing this summer,” explained Stefanie Staley with the Grand Traverse Lighthouse Museum.

9&10 Logo
9&10 Logo