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A shipwreck was discovered in Lake Superior 153 years after the 144-foot Barquentine Nucleus sank for the third and final time.

The discovery was announced by the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society (GLSHS).

The Nucleus was found under 600 feet of water and about 40 miles northwest of Vermilion point on Lake Superior.

The Nucleus is one of the oldest ships to sink along Lake Superior’s Shipwreck Coast.

The shipwreck society calls it the “Bad Luck Barquentine.” That’s because it sank twice before and in 1854 it rammed and sank the side-wheeler S.S. Detroit in Lake Huron.

The Nucleus sank on Sept. 14, 1869, when it was downbound from Marquette. It was carrying a load of iron ore when it was caught in a bad storm and started to leak. The crew abandoned ship with their lifeboat, a yawl.

After a few hours in their lifeboat, a yawl, the crew spotted and hailed the S.S. Union. Officers on the S.S. Union reported seeing the crew struggling in the storm, but they kept going and left them behind. The crew was picked up by the schooner Worthington. No deaths were reported.

“This is a pretty significant shipwreck . . . Considering its age, the fact that it is a barquentine and we can’t overlook the vessel’s checkered past. The wreck site is littered with shovels too . . . and a few dinner plates, which speaks to their work and shipboard life,” GLSHS Executive Director Bruce Lynn said.

The shipwreck society found the Nucleus using a Marine Sonic Technology side-scan sonar in the summer of 2021. It was identified in 2022 using a remotely operated vehicle.

“The stern was intact. It had a straight back stern and then the port side also was intact. And so, I was more excited about it because at first, I thought it was totally in pieces on the bottom,” GLSHS Director of Marine Operations, Darryl Ertel Jr. said.

The Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society was founded in 1978. They explore historic shipwrecks in eastern Lake Superior, near Whitefish Point in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

The Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum is located at the Whitefish Point Light Station in Whitefish Point. It is open to the public seasonally from May 1 to October 31.

Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society

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