Civil War-era shipwrecks discovered in Lake Michigan after sinking in 1878 collision

Credit: John Janzen and John Scoles

Credit: John Janzen and John Scoles

The discovery of two Civil War-era ships in Lake Michigan this summer were found miles away from where they were thought to have gone down in 1878 and may have sunk after a collision.

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The schooners St. Andrews and Peshtigo were reportedly lost in Lake Huron in the eastern Straits of Mackinac almost 150 years ago, but the ships were discovered 50 miles away in northern Lake Michigan, off Charlevoix, when an explorer found a virtual ship graveyard, according to a news release from Shipwreck World.

Longtime diver and explorer Bernie Hellstrom located an “obstruction” on the lake floor in 2010 and saw the wrecks firsthand with an underwater camera this summer.

Credit: John Janzen and John Scoles

Credit: John Janzen and John Scoles

Hellstrom found the two ships in "an amazing state of preservation" within 10 feet of each other, with intertwined masts and a massive hole in the hull of one of the ships, indicating "the vessels had collided and sank quickly," Shipwreck World reported. The Peshtigo's cargo of coal was strewn across the lake bottom.

News accounts at the time said a collision between the two ships occurred just after midnight on June 25, 1878, in dark, hazy conditions, the publication reported.

The confusion about the location of the collision developed after the wreck of the St. Andrews was misidentified in Lake Huron.

The St. Andrews was carrying a load of corn from Chicago to Buffalo and the Peshtigo was hauling coal from Erie, Pennsylvania, to Chicago.

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