The clear blue, post-winter waters of northern Lake Michigan have disclosed some of their hidden history to a U.S. Coast Guard crew, which took a series of photographs of shipwrecks lying on the lake bottom in the waters off the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
The Grand Rapids Press reports that the Traverse City-based helicopter was a on a routine patrol when the crew spotted the wrecks and got pictures of them.
The shallow waters of the lake off the Leelanau Peninsula near Leland are the site of many 19th and early 20th century shipwrecks. The area is known as the Manitou Passage, between the mainland of the northwestern Lower Peninsula and North and South Manitou Islands.
The Coast Guard crew posted six photos of the shipwrecks on its Facebook page (http://on.fb.me/1F2rfjc ). They were taken on Friday.
Among the wrecks that the crew photographs include the Rising Sun, which foundered in 1917.
"This 133 foot long wooden steamer stranded just north of Pyramid Point," the Coast Guard said. "She went to pieces and her wreckage now rests in 6 to 12 feet of water."
Another was the James McBride, a 121-foot brig that ran around in 1857.
"Her remains lie in 5 to 15 feet of water near Sleeping Bear Point," the Coast Guard said. "The McBride encountered a gale and was driven ashore near Sleeping Bear Dune."
The U.S Park Service, which manages the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, announced last month that the wreckage of the Jennie & Annie was now visible again on the beach halfway between North and South Bar lakes. The schooner grounded off Empire in 1872. The shipwreck is visible every few years.
Factors that include beach erosion, wind, waves and variable lake levels mean that various wreck fragments periodically become visible along the dunes shoreline.
The wrecks are considered public property and cannot legally be disturbed.