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Ship discovered almost 112 years after disappearing in Lake Michigan

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Chama Acosta
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« on: June 25, 2010, 07:10:21 am »

Ship discovered almost 112 years after disappearing in Lake Michigan
By Meg Jones
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Updated: 06/24/2010 02:47:47 PM CDT



Mud on the stern of the wooden steamship L.R. Doty
This photo provided Thursday June 24, 2010, by Great Lakes Shipwreck Research shows mud on the stern of the wooden steamship L.R. Doty found off the Milwaukee, Wis. shoreline. Divers say the Doty, which sank more than a century ago in a violent Lake Michigan storm, appears to have been perfectly preserved by the cold fresh waters. It was carrying a cargo of corn from South Chicago to Ontario, Canada when it sank in October 1898.(AP Photo/Great Lakes Shipwreck Research)

For almost 112 years, the steamship rested in ghostly silence at the bottom of Lake Michigan, unknown and unseen until a group of divers kicked their way down to the deck and solved a perplexing maritime mystery.

The deckhouses were gone, the smokestack was tipped over and a wheelbarrow used to move cargo lay on the boat's surface. Though the name couldn't be seen on the stern, the length of the vessel and unusual characteristics pointed to only one ship the L.R. Doty. Until last week, it was the largest wooden ship that had been unaccounted for in Lake Michigan.

The 291-foot-long L.R. Doty was carrying a cargo of corn when it sank during a ferocious storm on Oct. 25, 1898. All 17 people aboard and the ship's two cats, Dewey and Watson, were lost.

When a group of divers and maritime historians discovered the L.R. Doty's grave about 20 miles off Oak Creek in 320 feet of water, they found an intact ship sitting upright. It was in remarkable condition considering it has been underwater for more than a century, courtesy of the frigid waters of the Great Lakes that act as a great preservative of wooden ships.

And the cargo, harvested from Illinois farms and destined for Ontario, Canada, is still in the hold, though it now has a layer of muck on top of it, said Brendon Baillod, a Great Lakes maritime historian who spearheaded the search.

"She vanished with no real explanation. She was a pretty new ship. We wanted to solve that mystery why she
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disappeared in a Lake Michigan storm that she should have been able to handle," Baillod said Wednesday.

Built in 1893, the L.R. Doty was in the largest class of wooden vessels in existence on the Great Lakes at a time when the maritime highway was equivalent to today's interstate system. It was built with steel arches embedded in the hull, which provided extra stability, one reason its captain might have felt confident heading into bad weather.



Technical divers breathing a special
The bow of the wooden steamship L.R. Doty
This photo provided Thursday June 24, 2010, by Great Lakes Shipwreck Research shows the windlass on the bow of the wooden steamship L.R. Doty found off the Milwaukee, Wis. shoreline. Divers say the Doty, which sank more than a century ago in a violent Lake Michigan storm, appears to have been perfectly preserved by the cold fresh waters. It was carrying a cargo of corn from South Chicago to Ontario, Canada when it sank in October 1898.(AP Photo/Great Lakes Shipwreck Research)
blend of mixed gas with equipment required to dive so deep shot video of the wreck site and snapped photos that give clues that could explain how and why the Doty sank in a storm so fierce it damaged part of the Milwaukee break wall and destroyed the boardwalk in Chicago.

"It definitely goes to show there's still these looming giants that have yet to be found titans of the Great Lakes that are still out there," said Kevin Cullen, underwater archaeologist at Milwaukee's Discovery World-Pier Wisconsin.

As Jitka Hanakova descended to the ship in the 41-degree water, she couldn't see anything until she had swum down more than 200 feet. Then it appeared.

"It just suddenly shows up like a ghost ship and the more murky it is, the spookier it is," said Hanakova, owner of Shipwreck Explorers. "It's very exciting to be on a new wreck that nobody has ever seen it's like a diver's holy grail."

A fishing boat reported snagging lines on an object in that spot in 1991 and the report was noted by shipwreck explorers.

When Baillod, who is president of the Wisconsin Underwater Archeology Association, published his most recent book on Great Lakes shipwrecks earlier this year, "Fathoms Deep But Not Forgotten: Wisconsin's Lost Ships," he decided to take another look at that site.

With the help of Hanakova, who owns and operates the scuba diving charter Molly V, the area was searched with a fish finder. They found the large bump on the lake bottom in May. Last week, the weather was calm enough for teams of divers to descend for a better look.

Loaded with 107,000 bushels of corn, the L.R. Doty was pulling a schooner called the Olive Jeanette when the tow line broke in a gale as the ships passed Milwaukee. As waves reached 30 feet, the Doty's captain swung his large ship around in a big arc to search for the smaller vessel, which ultimately survived the storm. The L.R. Doty was never seen again.

Clues from the wreck suggest the Doty's rudder chain broke, probably when it was hit broadside by a large wave. It's likely the ship's wooden hatch covers either collapsed inward or were torn off in the storm when huge amounts of water washed over the deck, Baillod said. The same thing happened to the Edmund Fitzgerald, which had steel hatch covers.

As it sank beneath the Lake Michigan waves, the L.R. Doty's stern struck first. It pointed northwest even though its journey to the Straits of Mackinac was taking it northeast. And the rudder was found hard to port.

"Her hull is really clean. No dings, no dinks. She was a very new ship and we can see that in her wreck," Baillod said.

Hanakova plans more trips to the shipwreck this summer so divers can further document the site with video and photos and penetrate the interior, which is likely filled with the sailors' equipment. It's also possible human remains are still on the wreck, which is why divers are treating it as a gravesite.

Like all old shipwrecks in Wisconsin waters, it belongs to the state and is protected, meaning artifacts cannot be retrieved. Baillod plans to start efforts soon to place the L.R. Doty on state and national registers.

http://www.twincities.com/allheadlines/ci_15365893?nclick_check=1
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Chama Acosta
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« Reply #1 on: June 25, 2010, 07:12:16 am »



This photo provided Thursday June 24, 2010, by Great Lakes Shipwreck Research shows the windlass on the bow of the wooden steamship L.R. Doty found off the Milwaukee, Wis. shoreline. Divers say the Doty, which sank more than a century ago in a violent Lake Michigan storm, appears to have been perfectly preserved by the cold fresh waters. It was carrying a cargo of corn from South Chicago to Ontario, Canada when it sank in October 1898.(AP Photo/Great Lakes Shipwreck Research)
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