Sch. Lake Serpent located! Oldest shipwreck in Lake Erie.

Tank barge Argo discovered! Mystery of sinking solved as the barge lies upright and intact on the lake bottom.

Steamboat Anthony Wayne located! Believed to be the oldest steamboat sunk in Lake Erie. Found with side scan sonar in September, 2006. Recent dives confirm the identity of a side wheel passenger steamboat.


The Nineties are now complete! All forty 1990 - 1999 Inlands Seas journals.

              The Inland Seas Archival Collection, Nineties Edition is now available.

One of the Great Lakes most valuable sources of historical information from The Great Lakes Historical Society. Ships, schooners, barges and sailors of our past in fascinating stories of Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Erie and Lake Ontario including shipwreck and survival. Keep up to date on the latest developments in Ohio's underwater preserve efforts on the Features Page. An all new Side Scan Sonar page has also been added detailing survey information and underwater discoveries. Follow the activities of the US Revenue Cutter ERIE as she executes her duties on Lake Erie from 1833 - 1846

Erie logs

Shipwrecks tell of Lake Erie's history

Sch Lake Serpent located! Believed to be the oldest shipwreck in Lake Erie. Survey work confirms figurehead and major dimensions consistent witht he historical records of the vessel. Multiple dives by the survey team worked to document the major features of this wreck. Overall dimensions, including the stern section, part of the transom and the rudder and rudder post were found. The bow section was uncovered to reveal a figurehead. The Starbord anchor was found as well as some stone in the center of the hull. These stone are smoothll and rounded, not quarried as limestone would have been shaped. The Sch. Lake Serpent was returning from the islands (to Cleveland) with stone in the fall of 1829 when she encountered rough weather and never arrived at that port. The bodies of the crew and passangers were found floating between Sandusky and Lorain. The location of the shipwreck was never known.

ArgoOn Friday, August 28, 2015, while performing a historical shipwreck side scan sonar search in the waters of Lake Erie, Tom Kowalczk of Cleveland Underwater Explorers (CLUE) detected a target of interest on the otherwise featureless lake bottom east of the Lake Erie islands.  Taking advantage of favorable weather and lake conditions and utilizing the capabilities of the electronics aboard his well-equipped vessel, Kowalczk was able to obtain high resolution, high quality side scan sonar images of what appeared to be a large intact barge sitting upright on the bottom of the lake.  Kowalczk, whose remote sensing and navigation skills are exceeded only by his knowledge of Great Lakes history, ships and shipwrecks, was quite confident that he had found the tank barge Argo which had been abandoned in a sinking condition during an autumn gale in the early morning hours of Oct. 20, 1937.  The Argo was last seen afloat in this general area and eventually sank.  A subsequent search performed by the United States Coast Guard (USCG) failed to locate the wreck at the time and the exact location of the sunken barge was never determined. 




By MIKE FITZPATRICK | Sunday July 06 2008, 2:21am


The only known image of the steamer Anthony Wayne. Provided illustration

About 60 feet below the surface of Lake Erie, two large paddlewheels rise upward from the wreckage of the Anthony B. Wayne, a sidewheel steamer that sank 158 years ago, about six miles off the coast of Vermilion.

A team from the Peachman Lake Erie Shipwreck Research Center is exploring the remains of the steamer to learn more about the ship and the history of the Great Lakes.

The Peachman center is in a small, old house behind the Inland Seas Maritime Museum on Vermilion's lakeshore. If you go inside expecting to see a bunch of James Bond-type gadgets for locating sunken ships, you've come to the wrong house. Instead, you'll find file cabinets, along with some air tanks strewn across the floor.

You'll also meet Carrie Sowden, archaeological director of the center, who is teaming with two Texas A&M graduate students to explore the wreckage of the Anthony B. Wayne.

The Wayne sank shortly after midnight April 28, 1850, after the steamer's boilers exploded. The ship, heading from Sandusky to Buffalo, was carrying 80-100 passengers along with a cargo of wine, whiskey and livestock. About 30 passengers survived.

"I think the shipwrecks are important because they truly tell our story," Sowden said. By "our story," Sowden means the history of the Great Lakes.

The Wayne wreckage was discovered by Tom Kowalczk of Lakeside. He first came across the sunken ship in the fall of 2006 using a sidescan sonar system.

"Some of the detail in the paddlewheel showed up on the screen," Kowalczk said.

A dive to survey the wreck in the spring of 2007 confirmed to Kowalczk he'd found the Wayne.

"We took some preliminary measurements and surveyed and found enough circumstantial data to call it the Anthony Wayne," he said.

Hours of research and searching take place before a wreck is discovered, Kowalczk said.

"You kind of know where they are. You have a general area, but there is no X marks the spot," he said.

David Kelch, an associate professor and extension specialist of The Ohio Sea Grant Program, helped put together an interactive Web site,, that provides information on 28 shipwreck sites. The site has an interactive map showing the approximate location of other shipwrecks.

"Finding a shipwreck can be like trying to find a needle in a haystack," Kelch said.

Now that the Wayne has been found, Brad Krueger, who is working on his master's degree in Texas A&M's Nautical Archeology program, hopes to learn all he can about the steamer.

"It's one of the earliest examples of a passenger and cargo steamer that we have, probably one of the oldest in Lake Erie," Krueger said.

Krueger, fellow Texas A&M master's candidate Will Moser and Sowden make daily dives to the wreckage site, where they take measurements of the steamer's remains.

The exposed paddle wheels are the most impressive part of the submerged wreck, Krueger said.

"To see these two great structures looming on the bottom and coming into focus ... to see them rising up is impressive," Krueger said.

Krueger, a native of Ann Arbor, Mich., said growing up around the Great Lakes led him to pursue an advanced degree in nautical archeology. He hopes his study of the Wayne will uncover how the steamer was constructed.

"We don't know how the ship was built. There are no blueprints or plans. They weren't constructed by a plan," Krueger said.

Krueger would eventually like to learn more about day-to-day life on the steamer.

"Was it a floating palace? Was it a derelict that people were afraid to get on?" Krueger asked.

No photos of the steamer exist -- only a lithograph that was produced in 1837. The Wayne was 155 feet long, and the paddlewheels were 26 feet high.

Shipwrecks intrigue archeologists, Sowden said, because they offer a snapshot of time.

"It's interesting to think that it had not been seen since 1850," Sowden said.

Investigating the wreckage helps them piece together its history.

"The people that lost stuff on the boat and people who built it, and why it was built and why it was named the Anthony Wayne," she said. "There are so many different questions you can ask and answer, and so many different people involved with one moment in time happening."

The Great Lakes Historical Society operates the Inland Seas museum as well as Peachman center. One of the goals of the historical society is to document Lake Erie shipwrecks, Sowden said.

Locating wreck sites is just one obstacle faced by divers, Kelch said. Once they find the wreck site, a lot of times the ship remains have deteriorated.

"Some of the wrecks around the islands (have) nothing left but a scattering of debris. And some of the wrecks out there are buried under Lord knows how many feet of silt. There are wrecks that will never be found because they are out of sight," Kelch said.

As an example Kelch points to The Adventure, a ship that went down in the back bay of Kelleys Island in October 1903. The Adventure, carrying limestone, went down when its boilers caught fire.

"That shipwreck is only in about 6-8 feet of water. A lot of people go to that wreck because it's easily accessible and you can see it. But a lot of it has been destroyed because of years and years of wave action," Kelch said.


Story from the Friday, January 02, 2009 Edition of the Chronicle-Telegram

SONAR, GPS used to locate Erie wrecks
ODNR researchers call study ‘success’


Michael Baker
The Chronicle-Telegram

A recent study tried to pinpoint the ghosts of Lake Erie — the more than 1,500 reported shipwrecks littering the lake’s bed.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources completed a study using SONAR side-scan and GPS technology to turn up possible locations for shipwrecks, according to Constance J. Livchak of the Geological Survey branch of ODNR.
Livchak, a former Lorain resident, said this was the first public use of the technologies in the lake, and it resulted in the discovery of several potential wrecks. In addition, three confirmed wrecks — the George Dunbar, Amaretta Mosher and F.H. Prince — were found by the Geological Survey Team, which conducted the study using the technology, which produces an image of sound being either absorbed or reflected.
“It was a success,” Livchak said. “Locating shipwrecks is very important. They actually belong to the citizens of Ohio and offer a glimpse at the maritime history of Ohio. It’s like looking into the past.” (article continues)....


         July 2006 - the proposed  trailways

October, 2005 -

Map to Ohio shipwrecks in works

Officials try to promote Lake Erie sites while avoiding land conflicts
Associated Press

When state officials tried to mark several Lake Erie shipwreck sites as preserves two years ago, they tussled with property owners over land rights.

Now the state, lake historians and underwater archaeologists are hoping to mark four of the lake's zones as ``underwater trailways.'' The routes would guide divers to historic shipwrecks without parceling off properties.

``The trailways idea is to promote Lake Erie, hopefully without making people uncomfortable,'' said Constance Livchak, supervisor of the Division of Geologic Survey with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. ``It's not a boundary, where there's a box. A trailway is more of a guide from one shipwreck to the next.''

Lake Erie has at least 1,500 shipwrecks, many dating back to the late 1800s and early 1900s, when shipping traffic there was heavier. About 600 of those wrecks are in Ohio, said Chris Gillchrist, executive director of the Great Lakes Historical Society.

ODNR is vying for a three-year, $220,000 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to start the mapping plan. If the grant goes through, the state will add $63,000 to the project's budget.

The leader on the project is Dave Kelch, an associate professor and district specialist with Ohio State University's Sea Grant Extension program.

He said he hopes to publish a 16- to 20-page guide to shipwrecks in four Lake Erie zones. The brochure will include photographs, historical details and coordinates that will allow divers to locate the sites with global positioning equipment.

He also wants to set up a Web site with virtual dives for surfers who don't want to get their feet wet.

The plan is based on a Wisconsin program that maps out dozens of shipwrecks in Lakes Michigan and Superior.

``There's a lot of support and a lot of interest in the maritime history of the Great Lakes,'' said Keith Meverden, a Wisconsin underwater archaeologist.

The expense of documenting each shipwreck's location and remains is high, said Gillchrist, so putting together an exhaustive database would be nearly impossible.

``What we're striving for is a representation of the diversity of boats,'' he said, ``so that as people go through these trails, they understand that passenger boats and other work boats were subject to the same forces of nature.''

The Division of Geologic Survey is using sonar equipment to learn more about Ohio's wreck sites, Livchak said during an exploration of a 1911 shipwreck off Kelleys Island.

February, 2005 Submerged Lands Advisory Council - During the previous session of the Ohio General Assembly, a bill was passed that sunsetted a number of government advisory boards. Among those was the Submerged Land Advisory Council for the Ohio Coastal Management Program. As of January 1, 2005, the Submerged Lands Advisory Council no longer exists. To ensure the functions of the former council are not lost, in November 2004 the Coastal Resources Advisory Council unanimously voted to create the Submerged Historical and Geological Resources committee. The committee, similar to the former Council will focus on shipwrecks and other underwater historic preservation efforts

January, 2005 - In 2005 MAST will for the first time have grant money from ODNR Coastal management to moor 6 wrecks in Ohio waters.  The wrecks moored will be the steamers Sand Merchant, Queen of the West, Morning Star and Sarah Sheldon, the tug Admiral and the schooner barge Dundee. 

August 19, 2004 - excerpts from the meeting minutes of the Ohio Coastal Resources Advisory Council at Stone Laboratory, Gibraltar Island, Put-in-Bay

Taskforce Reports

Application Review Taskforce – Mr. Hayes said there was no report.

 Legislation – The legislation is currently inactive.

 Underwater Preservation – Mr. Hayes said there is a desire to protect the underwater historical, geological and botanical sites and some people fear that a major marina will be built over a popular shipwreck just off the north shore of Kelleys Island. Mr. Mackey said the issue of historical underwater preservation is also being discussed by the Submerged Lands Advisory Council. Mr. Goudreau said he is a member of the Great Lakes Historical Society and they have a strong desire to work with the Office of Coastal Management and their advisory councils.

April 27, 2004 - excerpts from the minutes of the Submerged Lands Advisory Council meeting.

III. Underwater Preserves

Dave Mackey reported that there was no change in the status of any attempt to establish an underwater preserve in Lake Erie. After Kelleys Island withdrew support for a Kelleys Island Preserve, three public meetings were held to solicit public opinion about a proposed alternate site for a preserve in the Western Basin. At the meetings, which took place at Kelleys Island, Put-in-Bay and in Port Clinton, a number of knowledgeable people had negative comments. Divers and charter captains stated that the proposed site had muddy bottoms, low visibility and few if any wrecks; political subdivisions didn’t want such preserves. The general impression was that people just don’t want a box in the lake. Therefore, ODNR has taken no further action to pursue an underwater preserve. The council discussed the value of informational pamphlets and buoys in the absence of underwater preserves. Dave Mackey stated that the Shipwreck Center should be able to support a project to produce pamphlets providing information on shipwrecks.

August 7, 2003 - Comments by former mayor William “Bill" Minshall, 519 Titur Road, Kelleys Island, Ohio at the Coastal Resources Advisory Council Meeting,

Ohio Revised Code section 1506.31 rules establishing Lake Erie submerged lands preserves: access, gives two unelected officials, the Director of Natural Resources and the Director of the Ohio Historical Society, complete control of the preserve and all the waters within it by the adoption of rules under chapter 119 of the Revised Code. The preserve area extends from the lake bed to the surface. An area may be set aside today as a preserve for shipwrecks, however, tomorrow comes with new directors and new rules.

O.R.C. 1506.31 provides that in addition to shipwrecks, “Other features of archaeological, historical, recreational, ecological, environmental, educational, scenic, scientific, or geological value,” may be given preserve status. Today’s shipwreck preserve, with the help of one or two scientific studies, will become tomorrow’s environmentally scientific area off limits to almost all but scientific researchers. Florida, California and Hawaii have experienced this exact circumstance. To say it will not happen here is foolhardy....... end of Mr. Minshall's comments.

Mr. Mackey said OCM (Ohio Coastal Management) wants to follow up with additional investigations with some of the people who are knowledgeable regarding these issues particularly the dive groups, archeologists and others. Mr. Mackey said the term preserve might be one of the problems that exist with the name “underwater preserve” because some folks think there will be restrictions................

Mr. Mackey said the ODNR has made it clear that there will be no restrictions on activities in the preserve that are currently allowed by Ohio law............

Mr. Mackey said of the comments against a preserve, most said they had concerns about possible future restrictions..............

Mr. Hayes said Ohio is the only Great Lakes state without an underwater preserve and in Michigan, small communities are begging for the preserve because of the benefit to ecotourism. Mr. Hayes said it is not likely that the Division of Wildlife would ever propose taking fishing in Lake Erie’s western basin away.

April, 2003 - New boundaries established for the proposed Lake Erie Islands Underwater Preserve raised some concerns at recent meetings. The proposed area includes parts of the lake north of Kelleys Island to the Canadian border, and west from the Kelleys Island shoal to the east side of South Bass Island. The preserve is meant to foster archaeological and historical research and educate the public about Ohio's maritime history.

May, 2001 -  New underwater preserve containing 39 sunken ships is proposed for the Kelleys Island area in western Lake Erie.

Ohio Department of Natural Resources officials are considering the state's first underwater shipwreck preserve in the waters surrounding Kelleys Island. An Ohio law passed in 1991 allows for 10 percent of the 3,277 square miles of Lake Erie submerged lands owned by the state to be turned into preserves. 

In related activities, MAST (Ohio's Maritime Archeology Survey Team) headed by Prof. Charles Herdendorf will begin their third underwater archeological mapping project on the Str. F.H. Prince, located within the proposed preserve. MAST has completed the site surveys of two other ships, the Str. Adventure and another site located adjacent to the Adventure determined to be a second shipwreck during the mapping process. The wreck is believed to the W.R. Hanna. MAST's mapping of the Prince is being done in conjunction with Ohio Archeology Week, June 17-23, 2001.

Last modified: January 02, 2009 

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