Northern Michigan in Focus: The Jarvis Lord Shipwreck

Shipwreck hunter and author Ross Richardson has found and documented another shipwreck.

The Jarvis Lord sank 135 years ago and is now scattered on the bottom of Lake Michigan.

One of the interesting things about this wreck is what time of year it sank. 12 02 20 Nmif Jarvis Lord.mov

“Perfect time, water was probably in the upper 60s, maybe even 70s, and it appeared to be a decent day. So, yeah, that’s the best time of year,” said Ross Richardson, shipwreck hunter and author.

Who could ever say there’s a perfect time to be involved in a shipwreck? But if you had to choose a day it might have been…

“August 18, 1885, it was a beautiful summer day and you couldn’t ask for better conditions,” said Ross.

The 180-foot long Jarvis Lord was sailing from St. Ignace to Chicago when it is thought to have hit a shoal.

“We think the captain cut the corner a little tight and bottomed out on a shoal, which caused it to leak. It was carrying a load of iron ore and started to sink rather quickly. He aimed at towards the nearest shore, which was Pyramid Point, and went down just a couple miles short,” explained Ross.

The Jarvis Lord sank so fast that it exploded, but maybe not in the traditional way you’d think.

“One of the stories a survivor said is they got the lifeboats in the water and it went down very rapidly, and the air pressure caused by the swiftness of the sinking caused the deck of the pilot house to explode off the bow,” said Ross.

This is a true shipwreck in every sense of the word.  As evidence of its violent demise is spread all over the bottom of Lake Michigan.

“It hit the bottom hard. The stern dug into the bottom and split open.  You can see some amazing things because the thing is opened up,” explained Ross. “The bow is split up open, the masts have fallen down, there’s wreckage everywhere. There’s iron ore spilled out. There’s wreckage fields off to the side that need to be explored and documented also, so it’s definitely not pristine. It’s a wreck.”

And you won’t believe where the ships wheel is.

“The second thing we found exploring the shipwreck is the ship’s wheel off the starboard side of the wreck, which indicates the pilot house and everything exploded and pieces of it landed everywhere, including that giant ship’s wheel,” said Ross.

And the boiler?

“The boiler is actually in great shape, but it’s not sitting in its cradle and, you know, those boilers are as big as a house. Those big, heavy iron boilers and this is standing alongside the ship,” explained Ross.

You would think the way the Lord sits on the bottom there would have been loss of life.

“Most of the time there’s a loss in life on the shipwrecks. On this one nobody died, they all got off,” explained Ross.

Ross says there’s still much to learn about the Jarvis Lord.  That’s why he’s opening up the wreck to divers.

“We’re are going to make it public immediately on my website. We’re going to have the GPS numbers up for it and information about the wreck.  It was such a difficult wreck to document, this year we’re hoping people kind of pitch in and we can crowdsource the documentation process,” said Ross.

Categories: Northern Michigan In Focus