Underwater mystery solved: Crews make surprising discovery in Lake Erie

Crews Solve Underwater Mystery in Lake Erie
Crews Solve Underwater Mystery in Lake Erie

CLEVELAND– Since its discovery in 1992, the wreckage of a schooner 20 miles north of Cleveland in Lake Erie has never been positively identified.

Located beneath 70 feet of water, the wreckage was believed for years to be that of the Mackinaw.

But in 2013, the National Museum of the Great Lakes, in cooperation with divers of​ the Cleveland Underwater Explorers (CLUE), decided to take a closer look at the urging of diver Rob Rietschle, who discovered the site.

CLUE Director and chief underwater archeologist David VanZandt was among those exploring the wreck.

More than 160 years after the collision, divers realized that what they were really looking at was the Schooner Plymouth. They realized that the schooner was hit by the Sidewheel Steamer Northern Indiana on June 23rd, 1852, about 20 miles north of Cleveland.

While there is no significant treasure here, what is most historically significant about this wreck is that it helped change the navigation laws on the great lakes to prevent future collisions.

"After this accident, the resulting court cases and the litigation resulted in new definitions and rules for navigation lights on the great lakes," VanZandt said.

The Northern Indiana rescued the crew of the Plymouth, which then made it to port where it was repaired. Four years later, it sank after another collision that killed nearly 30 people. The wreck of the Plymouth remains under Lake Erie ... where it will stay.

"Bringing all these artifacts up, unless they are properly preserved, they are going to just fall apart so they are better off where they are at right now," David VanZandt said.

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