Shipwreck Found in Lake Erie Believed to Be 200 Years Old

(From Right) The Lettie May, a schooner believed to be similar to the Lake Serpent, which may be pictured in sonar image.
National Museum of the Great Lakes

Researchers are preparing to excavate the remains of a shipwreck believed to have sunk nearly two centuries ago on Lake Erie, officials said.

The size, design and location of the ship’s shell have led authorities to believe it is the Lake Serpent, which was lost in 1829, making it one of the oldest wrecks ever discovered on Lake Erie, the National Museum of the Great Lakes said Monday.

"Our partners, CLUE (Cleveland Underwater Explorers), found this wreck in 2015 and since then we have narrowed the possibilities from over 200 shipwrecks to three," the museum said. "To make a final identification we need to spend about 10 days underwater excavating the portions of the buried schooner to be sure!"

The museum has begun its own fundraising campaign to pay for the excavation.

“Identifying and surveying this shipwreck is important because once completed, we will understand why the Lake Serpent sank in 1829 and the site can tell us about early 19th century shipbuilding techniques that were used in Cleveland, Ohio, where she was built,” the museum said. 

The Lake Serpent was built in 1821 and carried general cargo for eight years until late September or early October 1829. 

The ship had left in September to get stone at Put-In Bay, but wasn’t heard from after making the pick-up. 

The bodies of Capt. Ezra Wright and his brother, Robert Wright, were found on the shore in Lorain County in the first week of that October. 

“With that, it was believed that the Lake Serpent had been lost,” the museum said. “The shipwreck has been lost until now.”

The 10-day survey and excavation will cost about $13,000, with most of the work being completed by volunteers. 

“We need to excavate portions of the boat to determine if a sea-serpent figurehead is attached to the bow and if the boat is carrying the stone cargo newspapers at the time reported she was carrying,” the museum said in explaining the necessity for an excavation.

The museum has already raised about $6,000. To contribute, click here.

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