Diving & Underwater Exploration

Shipwrecks of the Sleeping Bear

Ross Richardson documents a shipwreck in Lake Michigan The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore invites you to join them at the Visitor Center Auditorium in Empire this Saturday, December 17 at 1 PM for a shipwreck program presented by diver/historian Ross Richardson.

The shipwrecks of the Manitou Passage have attracted underwater explorers for decades. Today, the underwater photography of these explorers allows landsmen to visit the shipwrecks from the comfort of a warm, dry chair. Ross Richardson has spent the last decade searching for and documenting shipwrecks off the coast of west Michigan. He is credited with discovering the location of the legendary steamer Westmoreland, which sank south of Sleeping Bear Point in 1854.

Offshore of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore lies the Manitou Passage. Although this 36-mile long waterway offers some protection from the open waters of Lake Michigan, even the waters of the passage can be treacherous. Many ships seeking shelter sank in this passage, hitting shoals and sandbars and running aground before being destroyed by the waves of Lake Michigan. There are 16 known shipwrecks in the passage and around the Manitou Islands, but there may be as many as 45 wrecks still undiscovered on the bottom. Many wrecks are well-preserved and offer clues on how they surrendered to the strength of the big lake in the days before advanced navigation when ships relied on basic tools like a compass, clock, and chart.

For more information, please call the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore at 231-326-5134 or visit their website at www.nps.gov/slbe. Also, check out their Facebook page!