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A ship that sank into the depths of Lake Michigan in 1881 has been discovered by shipwreck hunters, who described the ship as being like “a time capsule” into the past because of how well it has survived over the years.
The Trinidad, a schooner that transported grain between Wisconsin, Illinois, and New York, was found in July by Brendon Baillod and Robert Jaeck. The remains of the ship were found roughly 10 miles off the Wisconsin coastline two years after the two maritime historians began their mission.
“We were stunned to see that not only was the deckhouse still on her, but it still had all the cabinets with all the dishes stacked in them and all the crew’s effects,” Baillod told the New York Times. “It’s really like a ship in a bottle. It’s a time capsule.”
Shipwreck hunters have discovered the intact remains of a schooner that sank in Lake Michigan in 1881 and is so well-preserved it still contains the crew's long-ago possessions in its final resting spot miles from Wisconsin's coastline. https://t.co/XSTPmIYqId
— The Associated Press (@AP) September 1, 2023
There were eight men aboard the ship who escaped in a lifeboat and made it to Algoma, Wisconsin, in May 1881. The ship’s dog went down with the wreck.
“The captain and the crew immediately escaped in the ship’s yawl and after battling waves, the cold crew made it in to Algoma (then Ahnapee). The only loss aboard the TRINIDAD was the ship’s mascot, a large Newfoundland dog who was asleep next to the stove when the ship began to sink,” the Wisconsin Historical Society said.
Baillod and Jaeck used the account written by John Higgins, the ship’s captain, to help them locate areas to search for the wreck.
“The wreck is among the best-preserved shipwrecks in Wisconsin waters with her deck-house still intact, containing the crew’s possessions and her anchors and deck gear still present,” a press release on the ship’s finding said.
The Wisconsin Historical Society helped to charter an underwater craft to survey the wreckage of the Trinidad and confirm its location.
The ship was originally constructed in 1867 and used to facilitate grain trade between the upper Midwest, Pennsylvania, and New York. The 140-foot long schooner went down with a load of coal after it sprung a leak going through the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal in Door County Wisconsin, according to the Associated Press. The ship was reportedly not well kept, which contributed to its demise.
“If you lived in Philadelphia, Boston or New York in the 1860s and ’70s and you’re eating a sandwich, the bread in that sandwich was almost certainly grown in Wisconsin and brought on a schooner,” Baillod told the Times.
Baillod said that he hopes that the wrecked ship could be made visible to the public.
“These are resources that are held in public stewardship, owned by the public,” he said. “They should be visible by the public.”