Unsunken treasures

As water levels flirt with record lows, shipwreck researchers continue to make historic discoveries off Grand Haven’s coast.
Alex Doty
Apr 15, 2013

 

Michigan Shipwreck Research Associates researchers recently discovered three more shipwrecks along Harbor Island.

“What I’ve been saying is that the problems associated with the environment (low water) is a blessing in disguise for us historians,” said Valerie van Heest, one of the shipwreck research organization's explorers. “This gives us the opportunity to document these ships.”

The three new discoveries are in addition to the five documented late last year by the shipwreck association and Tri-Cities Historical Museum staff.

Van Heest noted that the best way to accurately document shipwrecks is in their exposed state.

"Once we identified the massive Aurora, just east of the public launch ramp last winter, we set off to find the next largest steamer abandoned in the area," she said. “As much as we scoured that area where the other one was, we couldn’t find it."

They then found “distinct wreckage” by the Harbor Island power plant through the use of MapQuest.

"The water was still frigid, but we had to get in to identify the wrecks," said Craig Rich, another member of the Michigan Shipwreck Research Associates.

Rich and van Heest donned dry suits to wade into the frigid water to take measurements and document the structure.

"There is no doubt that the largest of the three vessels is the L.L. Barth," Rich said. "The measurements are spot on."

The L.L. Barth began its life as the SS Wilhelm in 1889 in Bay City to carry lumber and coal. In 1900, Edward Hines of Chicago purchased the ship to transport his company's product. He re-named it for the vice president of his lumber company. 

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

 

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