Ex-Coast Guard Pilot Finds 155-Year-Old Shipwreck


Matthew Keiper, a former Coast Guard helicopter pilot, has discovered a 155-year-old shipwreck in the waters of Lake Michigan.

Keiper found the ship’s remains off the coast of High Island during a training mission, noted its location, and later informed a friend about the discovery, Fox 17 reported Monday.

“We were practicing an approach to the water simulating low-visibility situation. So we made that approach to a hover over the water near High Island. And when I looked down, I saw the remnants of an old wooden ship,” Keiper told Fox 17.

Keiper’s friend happened to be neighbor to professional shipwreck hunter Ross Richardson, who serves as president of the Maritime Heritage Alliance. Keiper began sharing information with Richardson, who identified the wreck as the two-masted schooner Live Yankee, which was built in 1854 and sank in 1869, Fox 17 reports.

“[Keiper is] busy being a pilot and saving people, so he doesn’t have time to know about all this obscure shipwreck history. But that’s right up my alley,” Richardson told the outlet, explaining that he dove to the wreck with underwater camera equipment for a close-up look at the ship.

For fifteen years, the Live Yankee transported passengers and cargo to Milwaukee, Buffalo, and Chicago until it was caught in a snowstorm on Nov. 5, 1869, Fox 17 reports. Those aboard the ship managed to escape and were cared for by a group of Native Americans on High Island, though one man died of exposure before they were ultimately rescued.

“Very rarely do you get a wreck like this that jumps in your lap,” Richardson told Fox 17. “I mean, this one was handed to us. Usually, we gotta go out there and spend hundreds of hours to find a shipwreck. But each shipwreck is important. Again, it’s the story. We’re storytellers. We love a good story. And this is a good story.”

Richardson provided the GPS location of the wreckage (45°44.152′ N 85°42.081’W), but the outlet warns readers to exercise caution.

“Please remember to be careful when exploring any waters in the Great Lakes,” Fox 17 journalist Andy Curtis wrote. “[T]he big water doesn’t care why you are there and will sink all vessels the same. Also — it’s illegal to remove, alter, or destroy shipwrecks, so take nothing but pictures and do so safely.”

Lost ships in the Great Lakes are still being actively discovered, not only most recently in Lake Michigan but also Lake Superior and Lake Huron.

Lisa Moore
Lisa Moore
Lisa Moore is a Canadian writer and editor established in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

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