1881 Shipwreck Discovered Intact in Lake Michigan

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After 142 years, the wreckage of the schooner Trinidad, which sank in Lake Michigan in 1881, has finally been discovered. Shipwreck hunters Brendon Baillod and Robert Jaeck found the impressively intact wreckage lying underneath roughly 300 feet of water, about 10 miles off the shoreline of Algoma, Wisconsin. Trinidad was used as a cargo ship in the grain trade between Milwaukee, Chicago, and Oswego, New York. The ship was poorly maintained by its owners and plagued by constant leaks, leading to its demise. Captain John Higgins and his crew abandoned the ship when it began taking on water, rowing to shore in a lifeboat. The wreckage of Trinidad is described as a “time capsule” and efforts are being made to have it added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Trinidad was a significant vessel in the grain trade between the Midwest and the East Coast in the late 1800s. Schooners like Trinidad transported wheat from the Midwest to cities like Philadelphia, Boston, and New York. The ship’s poor maintenance and constant leaks led to its sinking in Lake Michigan. Captain Higgins and his crew survived the ordeal, but a Newfoundland dog aboard the ship perished. Shipwreck hunters Baillod and Jaeck discovered the wreckage of Trinidad after a two-year search, utilizing Captain Higgins’ detailed account of where the ship sank. The wreckage is remarkably intact and is being considered for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places.

The discovery of the Trinidad wreckage sheds light on the important role schooners played in the transportation of goods during the 19th century. The ship’s intact state, with its deckhouse and cabinets still containing dishes and crew’s effects, makes it a valuable historical artifact. Baillod hopes to make the wreck visible to the public by having it added to the National Register of Historic Places. The discovery of Trinidad adds to the growing list of well-preserved shipwrecks in Wisconsin waters, and efforts are being made to preserve and showcase these resources.

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