Shipwreck emerges near Muskegon coastline
MUSKEGON, MI – A newly discovered shipwreck recently has emerged from below the Lake Michigan surface close to shore in Muskegon.
The wreckage was revealed late last week after storms caused high wave action and erosion. Muskegon resident Kim McDaniel said she was checking on a friend’s home south of Muskegon’s Kruse Park when she noticed the wooden hulk close to shore.
The wreckage appears to be that of a flat-bottomed barge used to transport items along the coastline, said John Hanson, president of the West Michigan Underwater Preserve.
Hanson measured the wreckage at 88 feet long and 21 feet wide. He said he’s actively working to determine what vessel it is.
However, Hanson theorizes it was transporting a steam crane and sank after taking on water in 1936. The crane was found eight years ago but barge never was, Hanson said.
He said the new wreck is almost a straight line toward shore from the crane, which is now a local dive site and part of the West Michigan preserve.
“That’s kind of our best guess,” Hanson said.
He said it’s possible the vessel was constructed in the late 1800s. It is in an upside-down, or “turtled” position, Hanson said.
Because it’s fairly intact, Hanson believes the wreck was exposed by erosion and didn’t drift to its location.
However, parts of it have drifted. Hanson said pieces of the same wreck were located 100 feet south along the beach. McDaniel said she had noticed that a part of the wreck she originally saw had gone missing.
Both Hanson and McDaniel expressed concern that gawkers will harm the wrecked piece of history. McDaniel said the water is so close to the bluff in that area that those who want to view the wreck will need to traverse waves.
She added that some trespassers have been damaging a bluff already compromised by high Lake Michigan water levels.
Hanson said he hopes the sand will eventually cover the wreck back up.
“I’m concerned that people will destroy it,” he said. “These are archaeological pieces of maritime history.”
He also hopes the wreck isn’t further damaged by strong wave action, saying “if we get a bad storm, that’s going to be a pile of kindling on the beach.”
A spokesman for U.S. Coast Guard Station Grand Haven said a crew would be visiting and examining the site in the next few days.
The West Michigan Underwater Preserve stretches from just south of Ludington to the Big Sable Lighthouse in Ludington.
It includes 13 diveable wrecks – including some that can be viewed while snorkeling – as well as two “archaeological features,” Hanson said. Those features include a ¼-mile long, naturally-occurring clay wall that is 8 feet in places, and the manmade “Hamilton Reef” just off Muskegon that was constructed to create fish habitat, Hanson said.
Hanson has a list of 60 shipwrecks in the preserve area, though he said the number could exceed 100.