Diver discovers shipwreck cluster
Cross Village — A Michigan shipwreck diver says he has discovered a cluster of wrecks in northern Lake Michigan.
Ross Richardson of Lake Ann said he uncovered the wrecks this summer in the waters around the small Island of Skillagalee, located between Beaver Island and the northern Lower Peninsula community of Cross Village, The Grand Rapids Press reported. An extensive reef system about four feet under the water was responsible for many shipwrecks in the area before advanced navigation.
“I was looking for wrecks that haven’t been discovered and have a decent last known position,” said Richardson, who’s originally from Grand Rapids. “This is kind of the last place in Lake Michigan where there’s a concentration of wrecks that are undiscovered, but somewhat attainable.”
The avid diver prepped for his season-long search of shallow wrecks with research during the winter. Richardson said he believes his discoveries include the remains of a 226-foot sidewheel steamer called A.D. Patchin that sank in 1850. Although its identity hasn’t been proven, he said he made an educated guess based on the size of the wreck and its location.
The sinking of the A.D. Patchin prompted the construction of a lighthouse on the island to warn crews of the nearby reefs. The wreck is below about 30 to 35 feet of water.
He found four other wreck sites during his three trips to the island. Richardson believes one of his other discoveries, the largest of the Skillagalee wreck sites with the greatest amount of artifacts present, is the wreck of the 150-foot brig Julia Dean. The captain blamed the ship’s 1855 sinking on Beaver Island pirates. The three other wrecks remain unidentified.
Richardson documented each of his dives this summer using a GoPro camera attached to a pole. The videos, which are posted to YouTube, mimicked the technique of a South African diver.
“I thought the technique was brilliant,” he said. “Great Lakes wreck filming has pretty much stayed the same for decades — you move the camera slowly over the wet wood. I wanted to get the diver in the shot for perspective.”
Richardson found the wreck of the Westmoreland in 2010.