MILWAUKEE, WI – An incredible discovery has been made at the bottom of Lake Michigan!
A century-old maritime mystery has been solved. In 1898, the wooden steamship L.R. Doty sank during a fierce storm in the waters of Lake Michigan, killing 17 people aboard. From that day on, the head-scratching began as to where the ship went. The mystery has been solved and the ship was discovered by a group of Wisconsin divers.
Finding the 300-foot-long L.R. Doty was important because it was the largest wooden ship that remained unaccounted for, said Brendon Baillod, the president of the Wisconsin Underwater Archaeology Association.
“The L.R. Doty was found by a commercial fisherman in 1991 who was out netting chubs in deep water, and he snagged a large obstruction on the bottom of the lake,” Baillod said. “He told a couple of people about it locally, but not much was made of it – because it was in 300 feet of water and at that time it might as well have been on the moon.”
Baillod said he became interested in the L.R. Doty around the time he started collecting accounts of Great Lakes shipwrecks from a database of all of the master vessels lost on the lakes. With his research in place, Baillod picked a crew and a day with good weather and went out looking for the ship.
“We were waiting for them to reappear on the line when a large red lift bag shot up our mooring and came to the surface with a note attached to it,” Baillod said. “And our hearts all sank because we really felt that there had been an accident below – usually notes like that say, ‘Call the Coast Guard.’ We pulled the note off and read it and it said: ‘All divers safe, back in 80 minutes, huge wooden freighter on the bottom.’ So we knew right then and there we had found the long-lost wreck of the L.R. Doty.”
The ship is upright, intact and looks like it did when it sailed Lake Michigan, except the pilothouses and deck hatches blew off in the disaster, Baillod said.