Two shipwrecks discovered in Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary

ALPENA, MI – NOAA maritime archaeologists and partners have located and identified two previously undiscovered historic shipwrecks in Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. The shipwrecks are the wooden steamer Ohio (1873-1894) and the steel-hulled steamer Choctaw (1892-1915).

While hovering over the bow, the ROV imaged both the capstan and pilot house. Just inside the left windows of the pilot house, the ship’s wheel is visible. Source: Northwest Michigan College/Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

In May 2017, a sanctuary-led expedition used high-resolution sonars to map the bottom of Lake Huron, during which they located the two ships. At the time, researchers were confident they had discovered the 202-foot Ohio and the 266-foot Choctaw. The team recently confirmed the vessels’ identities using underwater robots to collect photos and video of the shipwrecks.

The sanctuary is planning future expeditions to better understand, manage and interpret Ohio and Choctaw. Sanctuary staff also plan to develop exhibits and public outreach materials to enable divers and the public to access and learn more about these shipwrecks. Preserved by Lake Huron’s cold, freshwater, the shipwrecks will be nominated for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

Funded by a grant from NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, the project was made possible through research partnerships with NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, University of Delaware, Michigan Technological University, Northwest Michigan College, and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Choctaw’s rudder and propeller. Source: Northwest Michigan College/Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

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