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Canton, Michigan shipwreck hunter discovers another in Lake Huron
UWnewbee - 12/07/2012 4:11 AM
Category: General
Replies: 4

The 283-foot New York, shown in 1910, was the largest wooden steamer when it was built in 1879.
The 283-foot New York, shown in 1910, was the largest wooden steamer when it was built in 1879. / David Trotter/Special to the Free Press
A figure slowly emerged from the cold, deep-blue silence of Lake Huron.
Divers first spotted the engine. Then, the outline of the decking.
They had discovered the New York, a 133-year-old wooden steamer that sank more than a century ago during a storm on Lake Huron.
"We were very excited because it was such a large vessel," said shipwreck hunter David Trotter of Canton, who waited in a powerboat on the surface as two divers with flashlights and a camera explored 240 feet below.
The find earlier this year and expected to be formally unveiled today ended Trotter’s two-year quest for the ship and marked the latest discovery among the thousands of vessels lost over time to the Great Lakes.
The find is expected to shed light on how ships were built during that era a time when most shipbuilders didn’t use written plans.
"We have other vessels that represent that era, but none that were as large. ... It’s an important look at the technology of the period," said Patrick Labadie, maritime historian for the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Alpena.
Trotter has spent 35 years hunting for ships swallowed by four of the five Great Lakes and has located more than 90 wrecks. He plans to announce his discovery of the New York to news media and historical groups today and has put a video about the find on his website,
Trotter said the 283-foot New York was the largest wooden steamer in existence when it was built in 1879, not long before steel and iron became preferred for ship construction.
The ship had two stacks, twin boilers, a tall mast and two lifeboats that eventually would save its captain and crew. Divers discovered it resting upright, with a damaged stern and broken stacks nearby, about 40 miles north of the tip of the Thumb.
The ship was carrying coal from Detroit to Ontario on Oct. 1, 1910, when it was smacked by a storm with gale-force winds and punishing waves. It began to take on water. The fires in the boilers went out, Trotter said.
The Mataafa, another steamer that was towing a smaller ship as it passed the New York in the opposite direction, turned around to help.
"As she turned, she nearly capsized when iron ore shifted in the vessel," Trotter said. "When she came back around, one side was 2 foot lower in the water than the other."
Trotter said the crew from the Mataafa plucked the New York’s captain and 13 crew members from lifeboats. No one died.
"In the scheme of things, (the New York) ranks as one of the more important discoveries because of her place in Great Lakes history, her size, the heroics of the crew of the Mataafa saving the crew of the New York," Trotter said.
Trotter, 71, also has discovered schooners, steel freighters, dredges, barges and tugboats. The largest was the 600-foot steel freighter the Daniel J. Morrell, which he discovered in 1979 in Lake Huron.
Trotter first detected the New York in May using a side-scan sonar on his boat, the Obsession Too.
"It’s very exciting to see that on the bottom, because no one else has seen that since it sank," said Marty Lutz, 55, of Warren, one of the divers on Trotter’s team who made the initial plunge to the New York.
Divers made about 30 trips down from July through September. At every shipwreck site, they take measurements and look for artifacts, leaving behind what they find.
"We don’t have any interest in it," Lutz said. "It’s better to leave it on the wreck for other divers to enjoy."
The recordings divers make are put on DVDs that Trotter sells on his website and uses in presentations to students and historical groups as part of his Great Lakes Adventure Series, an educational program focused on historical adventures on the Great Lakes.
Trotter, a retired executive who worked in risk management for Ford Credit, has a surveying company, Undersea Research Associates.
He wouldn’t say how much the shipwreck expeditions cost but called them expensive and said he funds them. He has spent hours in libraries in Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin, reading newspaper clippings to learn about each ship. Minor health issues kept him out of the water recently, but he plans to dive again next year.
"I’m very passionate about the chance to discover and explore," Trotter said, "to be at the right place at the right time to unwind mysteries."
High up on Trotter’s bucket list: the Water Witch and R.G. Coburn, two ships that have eluded him for 15 years. "Some people ask me what is the most exciting wreck I’ve found," he said. "I say it’s the next one."
More Details:Michigan has 12 underwater preserves that are home to shipwrecks in the Great Lakes, the first of which was designated in 1980 through legislation. The preserves include about 2,700 square miles around the state, according to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and are:
• Alger Underwater Preserve, Lake Superior, at least eight shipwrecks
• DeTour Passage Underwater Preserve, Lake Huron, at least 18 shipwrecks
• Grand Traverse Bay Preserve, Lake Michigan, at least eight shipwrecks
• Keweenaw Underwater Preserve, Lake Superior, at least 12 shipwrecks
• Manitou Passage Underwater Preserve, Lake Michigan, at least 11 shipwrecks
• Marquette County Underwater Preserve, Lake Superior, at least 12 shipwrecks
• Sanilac Shores Underwater Preserve, Lake Huron, at least 16 shipwrecks
• Southwest Michigan Underwater Preserve, Lake Michigan, at least 13 shipwrecks
• Straits of Mackinac Underwater Preserve, Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, at least 13 shipwrecks
• Thumb Area Underwater Preserve, Lake Huron, at least 15 shipwrecks
• Thunder Bay Underwater Preserve, Lake Huron, at least 28 shipwrecks
• Whitefish Point Underwater Preserve, Lake Superior, at least 30 shipwrecks
For information, go to and search for “shipwrecks.
Eric_R - 12/08/2012 5:16 AM
It’s truly amazing how many wrecks are in the Great Lakes. Unfortunately a lot of them will be rotted away before their ever found.
Glen - 12/17/2012 8:20 AM
Diving at 240 feet, you must be a tech diver. Would be cool if you could post pictures!

UWnewbee - 12/17/2012 8:46 AM
sorry glen thats just a editorial i posted
Hansdown - 1/03/2013 3:49 AM
Great article - just a note tho - there are now 13 underwater preserves in Michigan. West Michigan Underwater Preserve is the 13 as of September 2012.