Michigan Shipwreck Research Association
By Megha Satyanarayana - Freep
Visitors to the Grand Haven area may see something odd peeking back at them from the water -- shipwrecks now more visible because lake and river levels have fallen to historic lows.
"You can just walk out among them," said Craig Rich of the Michigan Shipwreck Research Association in Holland. "They are actually sticking out of the water."
Rich said that since January, the association has found five ships and boats previously under several feet of water in the Grand Haven area.
They are among hundreds, or maybe thousands, of cargo boats lost to Lake Michigan since shipping began in the Great Lakes.
It's a rare occurrence, Grand Haven harbormaster Jeff Hawke said, and for the time being, the ships that have surfaced will stay put, since they don't pose a hazard to navigation.
He said his team started seeing old ships at the end of 2012, about the time water levels hit record lows in the Lake Michigan-Huron system.
Two of the ships have storied histories, Rich said, including a former life on the Detroit River.
Just off the north edge of Harbor Island in Grand Haven sits the remains of the Aurora, built in 1887 in Cleveland. Rich said the boat was 300 feet long -- nearly the size of a football field -- and about 40 feet wide.
Before finding its way to Grand Haven, the Aurora traveled the Detroit River, where, in 1898, it burned to the water line. After being rebuilt, Rich said, the boat carried salt.