Scuba Diving The Cedarville Shipwreck at Mackinaw Straights

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The Cedarville is a wreck that sank in 1965 in about 110 feet of water in Mackinaw Straits. Because the Cedarville is almost entirely upside down, diving through the internal passages is extremely disorienting. There are a few shots of staircases going in the wrong direction. The outside of the wreck was covered in a thick layer of zebra muscles, but the deeper in, they were less prevalent. The inside of the ship was in excellent condition.

The SS Cedarville was a bulk carrier on the Great Lakes in the mid-20th century that sank after colliding with another ship, the MV Topdalsfjord. The Great Lakes Engineering Works in River Rouge, Michigan, built Cedarville in 1927. The ship was launched as the SS A.F. Harvey and entered service for US Steel’s Pittsburgh Steamship Company division. The ship was transferred to the Bradley Transportation Company in 1956, which was still owned by US Steel. The ship was converted to a self-unloading vessel and renamed Cedarville as part of the transfer. She was a sister ship to the SS Carl D. Bradley.


Cedarville was travelling between Rogers City, Michigan and Gary, Indiana on May 7, 1965, with a load of 14,411 long tons (14,642 t) of limestone. Cedarville collided with the Norwegian ship MV Topdalsfjord one mile (1.6 km) east of the Mackinac Bridge in dense fog. The collision occurred due to a miscommunication between the two ships, which both changed course a mile apart, with Topdalsfjord’s Captain steering his ship on a course that would result in the two vessels passing each other on their starboard sides. The captain of Cedarville, on the other hand, intended to cross the bow of Topdalsfjord, but his message was not received by Topdalsfjord, which continued on a course that would to the collision

While the collision caused only superficial damage above the waterline, primarily broken railings and deck plates, the bow of Topdalsfjord had created a large hole in Cedarville’s hull below the waterline, and a slight list to the port had developed within minutes of the collision. The Captain of the Cedarville directed that water be pumped into the starboard ballast tanks to counteract the list, and that the ship be run aground to avoid sinking. However, as the ship approached land, the weight of the water within the hull forced the bow down, and the ship began listing to starboard before sinking. The majority of the survivors of the collision, in which ten of the 35 people aboard died, were women.

The captain of the Cedarville was charged with four counts of faulty seamanship following an investigation by the United States Coast Guard. He initially pleaded innocent, but changed his plea to guilty in August 1965. As a result of the investigation, his license was suspended for a year.

The wreck of the Cedarville is located in the Straits of Mackinac Shipwreck Preserve in water approximately 110 feet (34 m) deep, though the highest point of the hull is approximately 35 feet (11 m) below the surface and the ship’s cabins are approximately 75 feet (23 m) underwater. Because most parts of the ship are relatively undamaged, expert divers can enter. After Edmund Fitzgerald, Daniel J. Morrell, and fleet mate Carl D. Bradley, Cedarville is the fourth largest ship lost on the Great Lakes.

Dive Report

A few things to note :: Josh and I both have ALOT of training to be able to do this sort of dive. Please DO NOT enter a wreck if you are not trained, as it is incredibly dangerous. Throughout the video you’ll notice that we run a continuous guideline. There are a few moments where the silt is pretty noticeable, but I have a very bright, wide angled, flood light that is excellent at lighting up every suspended particle. The visibility inside the wreck was very good, so long as you maintained perfect buoyancy. One errant fin kick could put us in a 0 viz situation. You’ll notice some of my shots show a very thick layer of accumulated silt sitting on the bottom of the wreck.

Scott’s Scuba Service



About Author

Kathy is the owner of Kirk Scuba Gear, a passionate Scuba Diver, Ocean Advocate and Managing Editor of The Scuba News Canada

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