Shipwreck society discovers new wreck on Lake Superior coast

Nucleus anchor discovered in Lake Superior.
Nucleus anchor discovered in Lake Superior.(WLUC)
Published: Feb. 8, 2023 at 2:50 PM EST
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WHITEFISH POINT, Mich. (WLUC) - The Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society (GLSHS) has announced the discovery of the 144-foot Barquentine Nucleus.

According to a press release from the GLSHS, the Nucleus was found under 600 feet of water around 40 miles northwest of Vermilion Point on Lake Superior.

The Nucleus sank on September 14th, 1869 en route from Marquette carrying a load of iron ore. The ship, however, was no stranger to nautical disasters. The Nucleus 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 took on water in a bad storm on Lake Superior and sank shortly after. Fortunately, the crew were picked up by the schooner Worthington, with no loss of life.

The Nucleus is 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.”