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Newly discovered shipwreck in Lake Superior offers stunning window into the past

It was near midnight in early May of 1884 when the J.S. Seaverns went down off the north shore of Lake Superior. The ship had run against some rocks on its way out of nearby Michipicoten Harbor. And while all aboard made it to shore alive, the ship was swallowed up by the lake, abandoned and forgotten.

Until now.

Dan Fountain calls the Seaverns “one of the best preserved shipwrecks" he's ever seen.

Fountain is the sleuth responsible for uncovering the site of the 132 year-old shipwreck. He was inspecting nautical charts more than a decade ago when he noticed a symbol representing a wreck in Michipicoten Bay.

Several years later, and with the help of sonar, a team of wreck divers descended through the frigid waters of Lake Superior to the site of the almost-forgotten vessel.

“We were all amazed at the condition of the wreck,” Fountain said. The deck of the vessel, which was carrying supplies for contractors working on the Canadian Pacific Railroad, had collapsed. But the lower cabins remained intact.

"We were able to look into some of the crew accommodations," he said, "We were able to look into the galley and see dishes still on the shelves.”

Fountain said the cold water in Lake Superior helped preserve the shipwreck. So too did the lake’s lack of invasive mussels; in the other Great Lakes, this vessel likely would have been covered with quagga and zebra mussels.

Listen to our conversation with Dan Fountain above.

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