COLUMBUS (TDB) -- Ohio officials have published some amazing images of sunken vessels on the bottom of Lake Erie. Appearing appropriately ghostly, the pictures were created by side-scan sonar sound waves during an expedition to inventory and accurately map shipwrecks in an area of the Great Lakes treacherous for mariners.
Two of the images can be VIEWED in this Ohio Department of Natural Resources document that summarizes the August 2003 archaeological search near Kelleys Island. In all, seven ships were mapped. Officials are not yet sure of all their names.
Of course, nobody has publicly solved the biggest secret of Lake Erie -- the December 1909 disappearance of the 338-foot long Marquette & Bessemer No. 2, which sailed from Conneaut, Ohio into oblivion. The ship was a train-car ferry headed to Port Stanley, Ontario. There were about railroad cars aboard, a crew of 36 men and perhaps some $60,000 in gold or cash in the safe. Rumors crop up that the metal ship has been found, but they never seem to be confirmed. The Marquette & Bessemer is considered the Holy Grail of Lake Erie shipwrecks.
Over the years, treasure hunters and wreck divers have looked for it in the lake's depths without luck, and scientists and the Canadian Navy reportedly tried side-scan sonar and magnetometers to sense its metal hull in the late 1980s and early 1990s. A 1986 report from the Conneaut News Herald in Ashtabula County says the ship went down in a storm. "Three days after the Bessemer disappeared, a lifeboat was found about 15 miles off Erie (Pa.) carrying a grim cargo of nine frozen bodies. Five of the bodies were frozen in a sitting position, while the other four were huddled over the body of a young man, as though they had attempted to keep him warm," the account by Catherine Ellsworth reported. She said there was not very much of value in the ship's safe.
Now, the ghost ship is part of the lore and legend Lake Erie. The Ellsworth article, with a picture of the Marquette & Bessemer, is online HERE. This LINK leads to an Internet chatroom where divers and others discussed the wreck a few years ago.