1870s-era ship exposed as water levels recede

Low water is taking the cover off underwater history lying in the river off Grand Haven’s Harbor Island.
Alex Doty
Dec 8, 2012


Valerie van Heest, director of Michigan Shipwreck Research Associates, joined other local history experts on the island Friday to see a newly discovered shipwreck. They took photographs and measurements to determine its identity.

“It’s a ghost that’s come from the past and revealed itself after all these years,” van Heest said. “It’s unfortunate that it took this horrible low water level to do this. But, for our organization, we’re going to try and get out and look at all the wrecks that have exposed themselves.”

The wreck lies just east of the Harbor Island boat launch in an area typically covered with water. Van Heest said the wreck joins four others that lay on the west side of the boat launch — a schooner, a double-ended vessel and two barges.

“I think the jury is still out as to a name,” van Heest said. “I think we feel very confident that it was a very large steamer.”

The ship was likely 200 feet long, van Heest said. The measurements taken Friday showed that 165 feet of the old ship was exposed.

Van Heest said there are metal strappings along the ship, which points to it being built or refabricated in the 1870s.

“Now that we have a potential date and a length, now we can start to narrow down a potential identity,” she said.

Van Heest will work with local historians to find potential names.

To read more of this story, see Saturday’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.



Say no to new taxes

What a departure from the high water years of the eighties when you could buy a lake front home for fifty cents on the dollar because there was a good chance of it going underwater!


Noticed this the other day out there. Just thought it was an old dock exposed. Water is very, very low.


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