WHITEFISH POINT, Mich. (WJMN) – A ship last seen above water in 1869 has been discovered in Lake Superior roughly 40 miles northwest of Vermilion Point in Chippewa County, according to an announcement from the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society (GLSHS) on Wednesday.
The Nucleus, a 144-foot barquentine, was originally discovered by GLSHS under 600 feet of water in the summer of 2021 using Marine Sonic Technology.
The Nucleus sank on September 14th, 1869, when it was downbound from Marquette carrying a load of iron ore. The Nucleus was no stranger to accidents though. It had already sunk twice, and in 1854, rammed and sank the side-wheeler S.S. Detroit in Lake Huron.
On that September day in 1869, the Nucleus was caught in a bad storm on Lake Superior and started to take on water. The leak became so bad the crew had to abandonship and took to their lifeboat. The Nucleus sank shortly afterwards. If Nucleus had its share of bad luck, so too did its crew once they cast off from the sinking ship. After a few hours in their yawl, the Nucleus crew spotted, and hailed the S.S. Union. The officers reportedly spotted the Nucleus crew struggling in the storm, but chose to keep on steaming, leaving them behind. Fortunately, they were soon picked up by the schooner Worthington, with no loss of life.
The Nucleus sank in 1869, making it one of the oldest ships to go down along Lake Superior’s Shipwreck Coast. Shipwreck Society Executive Director, Bruce Lynn reflected on the discovery, “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.”
The Shipwreck Society discovered the Nucleus using a Marine Sonic Technology side-scan sonar in the summer of 2021, and positively identified the wreck in 2022 using the organization’s ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle). GLSHS Director of Marine Operations, Darryl Ertel Jr., found the wreck to be in surprisingly good condition, “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.”