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Ghost Ships (Sunken Ships) Found in the Great Lakes

The Great Lakes is an area of five freshwater lakes located in North America between the USA and Canada. These lakes are named: Superior. Huron. Michigan. Erie, and Ontario. Four of the lakes are half shared by Canada and the other half shared by the USA. The only lake wholly inside the USA is Lake Michigan. Since the time of the 17th century to now, there have been thousands and thousands of ships and barges that sunk in these vast waters.

Map of the Great Lakes and ship wrecks in 1913. (Click to enlarge map.)

This article shall mention a few of the oldest sunken ships and their discoveries. Lake Ontario. USA side: the HMS Ontario sunk in a storm on October 31, Halloween, 1780, during the American Revolutionary War for Independence. A British 22 gun brig sloop, and 80 feet in length; the largest British warship on the Great Lakes at the time. The British battleship is the oldest shipwreck on the Great Lakes and the only fully intact British warship ever located. The HMS Ontario remains the property of the United Kingdom and is a war grave. The ship sank only hours into its voyage. Deaths: estimated to be 120, said to be men, women, children and prisoners on board including four Native American Indians. The remains have been reported to be discovered in deep waters nearly intact by two shipwreck enthusiasts, Jim Kennard and Dan Scoville in 2018 who will not disclose the ships precise location.

Lake Superior, Canada side, the Comet. Sunk on August 21. 1875. A cargo and passenger steam ship that suffered a number of maritime accidents before its final wreck into the Manitoba in Whirefish Bay. Cargo included 70 tons of Montana silver ore, and the “Comet” has been dubbed the only true treasure ship of Lake Superior. Deaths: 10. 

Lake Huron, Canada side, the Cirnelia B. Windiate. Sunk November 27, 1875. Iced up by layers of water converging on her deck the ship slowly sunk in a storm after going through the Straits of Mackinac. The Cirnelia B. Windiate, sits upright 185 ft below the surface; at the bottom of Lake Huron, in remarkably preserved condition. Deaths: 9. 

Lake Erie, USA side in the state of Ohio. The Lake Serpent, a schooner that has an image of a serpent’s head carved near the front, an unusual feature during that time for ships. The ship sank in 1829 near Kelley’s Island off the Ohio shoreline. The wrecked vessel sits nearly 50 feet (15 meters) below the water’s surface. Deaths: more than 3. 

Lake Michigan, Canada side, the site of presumed shipwreck since the ship believed to have vanished in a violent storm. The ship: Le Griffon (French for The Griffin). Built by French explorer LaSalle on or near Cayone Island on the Niagara River and launched from there in 1679. A 45 ton barque with 7 cannons. The ship vanished after sailing from the island, loaded with 47 furs traded with the Indians during a violent storm in a body of water known as Green Bay in 1679. Believed to have been sunk and the crew killed. Deaths: 6.

 The fate of The Griffin is a mystery and Indians threatened to burn it down and kill the crew because of friction between trading turfs and encroachments into “Indian only” lands. But, there is no evidence of the Indians going to that extent and the crew of the Griffin tried to make peace offerings including gifts to various Indian tribes. One theory holds the crew burned the ship, deserted with the furs and sold them, but that concept is very far fetched. The ship sinking in very bad weather is the most prevalent assumption regarding The Griffin. Still some folk say the ship was cursed by the Iroquois prophet Metiomek, and that contributed to her demise.

In 2014, diver Stephen Libert claims to have found the remains of a ship near Poverty Island in northwestern Lake Michigan in only 50 ft. of water.

For hundreds of years, mariners have professed to see the spooky appearance of a ghost ship rise unexpectedly out of the hazy banks of Lake Michigan heading towards them. However just before impact, the Griffon evaporates into the misty air. Others swear that the Griffon can be witnessed on foggy evenings cruising out of Green Bay Harbor.

All of these ship disasters incurred various human deaths which adds a strong ghostly factor to these maritime incidents.  

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