Tue January 8, 2013
Shipwreck Found Off Apostle Islands
A Prohibition-era barge carrying pulpwood from Canada and, legend has it, 10 cases of bootleg scotch, was found this summer in the Apostle Islands.
The barge “Ontario” foundered in a storm off Outer Island in 1927 in 450 feet of water considered one of the deepest wrecks in Lake Superior. Jerry Eliason of Cloquet, Minnesota was on the expedition that found her. He says it was hard to find and even more difficult to access, “If one removed 100 tons of mud, it’s probably in very good shape but as it is it certainly won’t be a diving attraction.”
Unless the diver is a big fan of scotch. State Historical Society Maritime Archeologist Keith Heverden says many vessels coming from wet Canada to the dry U.S. in the 1920’s carried secret cargo, “Let me just say that it’s not the first wreck that I’ve heard it.”
The Ontario is one of 65 significant shipwrecks in the Wisconsin waters of Lake Superior, with 44 of those wrecks never found. Some have disintegrated after being pounded by waves and ice, but Heverden says there’s still a great hunger to look for shipwrecks, “To find a site that nobody’s laid eyes on before and to do that first dive on a shipwreck that nobody’s touched, nobody’s seen. It’s literally laying undisturbed on the bottom, unmolested from the time it sank probably 100 or more years ago. That’s really the big appeal is to touch history exactly as it happened.”
Eliason says the motive certainly isn’t financial, “Now as I get older and reflect back, I spent about 90% of my discretionary income in pursuit of shipwrecks, diving them, photographing them. I’m sad to stay I might have wasted the other 10%.”
Next summer, Eliason hopes to find the three-masted schooner Antelope. That foundered off Michigan Island in the Apostles in 1897. It was carrying coal but no whiskey.