A wooden ship that sank more than a century ago in a violent storm on Lake Michigan has been found perfectly preesrved by the cold fresh waters.
Finding the 300-foot LR Doty was important because it was the largest wooden ship that remained unaccounted for, said Brendon Baillod, the president of the Wisconsin Underwater Archaeology Association.
The Doty was carrying a cargo of corn from south Chicago to Ontario, Canada, in October 1898 when it sailed into a terrible storm, Mr Baillod said. Along with snow and sleet, there were heavy winds that whipped up waves of up to 30 feet.
The Doty should have been able to handle the weather -the ship was only five years old, and the hull was reinforced with steel arches.
But it was towing a small schooner, the Olive Jeanette, which began to founder in the storm after the tow line apparently snapped, Mr Baillod said.
The Doty probably sank when it came to the schooner\'s aid. All 17 of its crew members died, along with the ship\'s cats, Dewey and Watson.
As a maritime historian, Mr Baillod spent more than 20 years researching the shipwreck. He knew that swaths of debris had washed up afterward in Kenosha, about 40 miles south of Milwaukee. But he found news accounts that it had last been seen closer to Milwaukee.
Meanwhile, a Milwaukee fisherman in 1991 reported snagging his nets on an obstruction about 300 feet under water. The observation was largely forgotten until diving technology improved enough to enable exploration at that depth.
As soon as they got to the lake floor, they knew they had found the Doty.
Divers found the ship upright and intact, settled into the clay at the lake\'s bottom. Even the ship\'s cargo of corn was still in its hold.
The Doty is so well preserved because it is in a cold, freshwater lake and because it is far enough below the surface that storms did not affect it.
Those same factors mean the crew\'s corpses are likely to be intact as well, Mr Baillod said. Their bodies are probably still in the boiler room, where the sailors must have huddled as the ship went down, he added.
There are no plans to raise the Doty, which is now the property of the state of Wisconsin. The ship will remain preserved indefinitely where it is, rather than exposing it to air that would cause it to rot away within a few years, Mr Baillod said.
Thousands of ships remain submerged in the Great Lakes, some vessels scuttled and others the victims of shipwrecks. Lake Michigan has about 500 dive-worthy ships still to be found, Mr Baillod estimated.