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.


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


Side Scanning for Shipwrecks

2017 The season started late with a scheduled trip to Canada searching for the long lost Steamboat Kent. Several previous searches have been undertaken without success as far back at the 1980s. This wreck is elusive but it will be found. Ten days of steady searching did not produce any likely targets and no other shipwrecks were found either. As the saying goes...... "we know were they are not". The wind was co operative however and we managed to cover a lot of lake bottom. This is narrowing down the possible areas left to search.

Returning home, we continued the searching northward to the Canadian international line. In the meantime, Rob Ruetschle found the Str. Margaret Olwill off Lorain. Sunk in 1899 this propeller is largely broken up. A real disappointment as far as condition is concerned. The stern is completely gone and the bow is a huge lumber pile. Unfortunately, the visibility was very low in the two to three foot range making identification and orientation around the wreckage complicated. A couple of dives were make to locate the engine and confirm the boilers were not on the wreck. Hopefully, the visibility will be better next year for further study of this important wreck.

2016 The weather was the big story for this year. Searching requires precise location and tracking in the search area to not only find a shipwreck but also to be certain all the bottomland has been covered without skips or gaps. When the wind over the open lake surface exceeds 10 kts, the waves are strong enough to make accurate steering of the boat difficult. The risk of missing targets is too great and limits are set to avoid this. As the search areas expand to further and further distances, it is even more important to have confidence in the weather forecast. Running the full distance to setup a search only to be "blown off" is always a concern. This year the winds over Lake Erie were many times more than the 10 kt. limit. Frustrating! While many trips were cancelled, many were completed with the discovery of two (and possibly three) new shipwrecks. The two new discoveries are both schooners. Identities are still in question but one is fairly certain to be a well documented wreck for the mid 1800s. The other needs additional dive work for basic survey information to be collected. The wreck appears to be carrying a load of coal which will help in the identification. The third possible shipwreck was only scanned with sonar and needs to be "ground truthed" before confirmed as a shipwreck but as the saying goes...... "it's looking good"

2015 turned out to be an exceptional year for discovery. While searching the target area believed to contain an early 19th century schooner lost in 1846, the steel tank barge ARGO was located. This discovery lead to contact with the United States Coast Guard District 9 in reporting this potential environmentlally dangerous shipwreck. Once publically announced, the media monitored the progress with international exposure including a feature on the Canadian TV show 16x9. Finally on December 17, 2015 the Coast Guard announced that all the oil cargo had been removed from the wreck and it no longer was a threat of pollution. The USCG was very co-operative and easy to work with while the wreck was initially investigated. When we confirmed that it was actively leaking they immmediately responded to contain and eliminate the threat. On February 17, 2016 we received a letter of appreciation from the Commander, Sector Detroit expressing gratitude and thanks for our efforts. While the ARGO was stealing the show, at least two additional shipwrecks were located. One is possibly of significant historical interest. Further research and investigation of the wreck site will provide clues to its identity. While exciting, it turns out that neither of these new wrecks are the one we have been looking for. The search area is far past the primary location. A decision will be made to go back and re-scan some of the target area if this elusive schooner does not show up soon in the current search pattern.

2014 The season started out great with my first discovery on the first trip searching between the Islands and Vermilion. It appears to be a steel barge, partially buried in the muddy bottom. Not a 19th century schooner but a shipwreck non the less. In July, the JW Fishers magnetometer is finally repaired and ready for sea trials. It was lost on a very rough day several years ago when the cable caught under the prop and broke the towing assembly. It took several dives to locate and recover the magnetometer. All is back to original working order with a new tow housing and cable assembly. Trials also determined a surface float would be necessary to use the magnetometer near shore in order to keep it far enough from the boat to minimize interference. A combined side scan and magnetometer search is planned for the Summer/2015. A second find of the season came off Vermilion in the form of a rectangular object with a rectangular opening along one side. Strange and very interesting but not really a shipwreck, it could be deck equipment of some debris lost from a vessel. A dive will be required to figure this one out! A new (to us) Klein 595 side scan system was also purchased this year. This system will give us two complete working units and spares. Anticipating our search area to continue into deeper and deeper water, these systems are capable of scanning greater area in each track line. A real benefit to getting more area searched. Lots of work to do over the winter season getting all this equipment ready for next year.......

2013 June 15th, scanning between the islands and Vermillion on course to expand the area searched in that part of Lake Erie to the north, a significant target was discovered. Several close up detail scans were made of the target to better image the obstruction intended to help with identification. The object appears to be 20 - 30 feet long and is cylinder shaped. A search of archival records and Great Lakes marine data located a possible candidate for this target.

October 20, 1937 the oil barge ARGO while being towed by the tug SYOSSET became unmanageable and was cut loose by the tug. After the tug dropped the tow, the two crewmen on the barge attempted to abandon it and were thrown into the lake. A two hour search by the tug finally located the men and brought them to safety. In the meantime the tug had lost sight of the barge ARGO and presumend it to be adrift. The Coast Guard was notified and they sent out the USCG vessel TAHOMA, Lt. Commander S. E. Barron from Cleveland to search for the lost barge. After three days of steady searching the Coast Guard cutter TAHOMA sighted an unidentified object and proceeded to the site. They found two pontoons approximately 25' x 20' x 8' made of steel and lashed together. Under high winds and heavy seas, the cutter managed to recover the pontoons and took them in tow. While towing, the 12" hawser bridle was carried away allowing the pontoons to become separated and one began to sink. The Coast Guard cutter attempted to recover the pontoons but one sunk before it could be secured. It is possible the target discovered could be the lost pontoon from October, 1937. A discovery dive will be needed to verify the object and look for markings that could positively identify it.

2012 started early but the weather was unpredictable. We were able to get out and do some scanning, extending the area covered from Marblehead east. Several targets were located but none proved to be shipwrecks. One new discovery was made during the season. From the enrollments and newspaper accounts it appears to be the Scow Lilly. She is described as being built at Mud Creek, Ohio in 1858 but this could be in error. Possibly being built in 1853 by E. Bates of Sandusky. The Sandusky newspaper carried the following report:

Capsized - By a telegram received here last evening from Vermillion, we learn that the scow Lilly, of Toledo, left Vermillion on Monday A.M. for Toledo. When about 10 miles east, and about 3 P. M. she was struck by a squall and capsized, drowning the Captain. name not known. One man and a boy escaped by clinging to a skiff which was upside down. They sat on the bottom of the skiff until they were picked up by a vessel yesterday and taken back to Vermillion having been in that perilous situation for 18 hours. The scow is a total loss. The body of the Captain had not been recovered last evening.
Sandusky Daily Commercial Register - Wednesday Morning, July 9, 1862 p3c1

2011 was a season mixed with success and failures. The spring started with a return to the Battle site survey War of 1812 project. Expanding the search area by adding more sections to the north and to the west. As usual, many magnetometer targets were recorded and a couple of promising side scan targets were found. Magnetometer use was limited by a very tight schedule and it was decided to focus on searching new areas instead of checking on existing targets. By Memorial Day weekend we had completed the search grid. The primary survey work for this project is now complete. There are many, many anomalies to be checked and lots of dive time will be needed to verify all of these possibilities. We did confirm the side scan targets to be modern debris, probably lost from the Camp Perry aircraft.

Frustration! I just cannot find it. A well documented wreck sunk near South Bass Island continues to elude me. I have extended the search area and still have not located this stubborn wreck. A stone barge was discovered but it is not the shipwreck I am looking for. Lots and lots of time has been spent looking at lake bottom. As the old shipwreck hunters saying goes..... "We know where it's not"

2010 returned to a more normal level of activity with no scheduled survey work on the calendar. The boat required an increased amount of maintenance prior to launch which started the season very, very late. Picking up on survey areas that had been started in prior years, it didn't take long to find the first new shipwreck of the season. A very nice little stone barge close to South Bass Island was discovered. This wreck is unidentified but was probably a local work barge and may not have been in the registry. She is completely open and full of stone. Several targets identified in the BofLE survey were planned for further investigation but scheduling conflicts and other priorities never allowed the trip so that work is now planned for 2011. A number of side scan trips were made to fill in sections of prior search areas and a small boat was located off Kelleys Island among other small debris and objects. Finally, all the potential targets found in previous side scan surveys were checked and verified, unfortunately these all turned out to be natural obstructions.

The 2009 season was consumed by two major projects. The search for the original battle site during the War of 1812 fight between Oliver Hazard Perry and Robert Heroit Barclay in the Battle of Lake Erie, 1813. The Battle of Lake Erie and Vessel Anchorage Survey was set up to utilize sonar and magnetometer technology to survey the bottom of the lake bottom.  After analysis of these survey results, the plan was to investigate possible targets with divers and an underwater metal detector.  The survey was initially set up to run 100’ line spacing, to hopefully cover about 7 square miles of lake. Since the magnetometer would not likely detect buried cannonballs in 100’ line spacing, we decided to make the lines only 50’ wide.  This is a very small, but high intensity scan process.  Because the spacing was reduced, we were only able to cover 3 square miles.  This area was 3½ miles east to west and about 1 mile north to south.  Over the course of 4 weeks and 14 actual work days that we were able to survey, we collected an enormous amount of data.  In the end, we noted over 1000 magnetic anomalies, each a possible target and several side scan targets.

Work on the Battle Site was suspended in order to move to the ANTHONY WAYNE wreck site. Work continued with the Texas A&M graduate program team conducting a detailed investigation of the horizontal engine and associated equipment by dredging this area of the wreck. Thirty days were spent in this survey project including a detailed sub-surface scan of the area around the exposed wreckage. Utilizing a sub-bottom profiler, the unexposed portions of the wreck were identified and mapped.

A return to the Battle Site survey area late in the year involved many investigative dives to determine the source of individual anomalies. Many beer cans, shells and miscellaneous junk was located as well as some very interesting iron fragments that remain unidentified.

We did manage to squeeze in some time for side scan searching and were able to find at least one new vessel. A very fine intact schooner/barge yet to be identified.


The 2008 season was filled with shipwreck activities. Early in the year several verification searches were made on sites that showed possible targets from previous side scan surveys. Unfortunately, no new discoveries were made. Beginning is mid June daily dives were made to the steamboat Anthony Wayne. Underwater archaeological studies were completed over four weeks until mid July by Texas A&M University and Great Lakes Historical Society divers. One new schooner was discovered but only two dives were made on this shipwreck. More dives are planned in 2009 with pictures and video documentation to follow. Plans are being developed for the Battle of Lake Erie 1812 survey to begin in the Spring of 2009. Research and study of the actual battle site is expected to be exciting and informative on this historically significant event.

The 2007 season added several new shipwreck discoveries. Over 100 hours of side scanning was completed with the discovery of four new shipwrecks. All of these are believed to be virgin sites. One barge, two schooners, one scow. Additional research will be necessary to confirm details that will provide more positive identification of these wrecks. Until then they will remain unnamed although their location and cargos allow a short list of probable vessels,

If you have information on any of the shipwrecks in Western Lake Erie waters, please share the information here so it can be added to the list of shipwrecks that have been located.

Recent Projects by Lake Electronics

Lake Electronics publishes several "out of print" journals and periodicals in electronic format. Original publications are converted to PDF (portable document format) an ADOBE® product that is universally readable. The advantage is regardless of the computer system in use, the electronic publications will look the same on all systems. The electronic versions of the original documents are identical in every way. Page layout, graphics, text size, font and style are all preserved as the original. Currently, we are working on the Great Lakes Historical Society's INLAND SEAS JOURNALS. A sample of the first publication, January, 1945, can be viewed on another page.

Detroit District Vessel Enrollments 1818 - 1889

List of Merchant Vessels of the United States 1868 - 1910

Logbooks of the US Revenue Cutter Erie 1833 - 1846

Canadian Dept of Transport Records Register of Wrecks

Marine Record 1883 - 1903

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Last modified: January 02, 2009 

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