The 292-foot Whaleback barge was discovered in Lake Superior exactly 100 years after it was sunk by a Lake Superior storm. Barge 129 was discovered 650 feet underwater by the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society, off Vermilion Point using side scan sonar. The society captured its first SONAR image in 2021 and used an underwater drone to identify the vessel in August 2022. The announcement comes on the 120th anniversary of the sinking of the ship.
According to the historical society, the ship was transporting iron ore with another steamer, the Maunaloa, in tow when the storm hit in 1902. The towline connecting the ships snapped due to the raging storm, leaving them at the mercy of Mother Nature.
Vermilion Point is a remote, undeveloped shore in Chippewa County, Michigan. This historic site is located 9.75 miles (15.69 km) west of Whitefish Point, Michigan, on a stretch of Lake Superior’s southeast coast known as the “Graveyard of the Great Lakes” or the “Shipwreck Coast.” Vermilion Lifesaving Station servicemen performed daring shipwreck rescues from 1877 until 1944, when it was closed due to modern navigational technology rendering this service obsolete.
Native Americans, early travellers, and explorers frequented Vermilion Point. Its bogs and marshes were used by early settlers to grow cranberries, which were shipped to Chicago, Illinois, and Duluth, Minnesota. It is now protected as a nature preserve for the study of avian ecology, the piping plover, and the succession of beach plant communities.
The Vermilion Life Saving Station and the surrounding 1.5 mile (2.4 km) undeveloped shoreline were privately purchased in the early 1970s for preservation and restoration. The property is available for quiet recreation to the general public. There are no motorised vehicles allowed on the preserve, and access to piping plover nests and bird-trapping nets is restricted.
The Barge 129 is one of the last lost Whaleback ships to be discovered, and shipwreck hunters had been searching for it for a long time.