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Lake Michigan: Divers discover L.R. Doty

Oak Creek (Global Adventures): Divers discovered the L.R. Doty, a 291-foot long steamship that disappeared in 1898 during a violent storm on Lake Michigan. The vessel was on its way from Chicago to Ontario, Canada. While details about the sinking are still unclear, it is known that the Doty did have a small boat, the Olive Jeanette, in tow shortly before the accident. All 17 crew members aboard the L.R. Doty died when the ship loaded with 107,000 bushels of corn did sink 112 years ago.

Fishing boats first reported in 1991 that their nets snagged onto an object in about 300 feet of water. Due to the depth, it took until 2010 before divers mounted an expedition. A local dive operator used a fish finder to search the area about 20 miles off Oak Creek in May 2010. He noticed a large object on the bottom. It took weeks to wait for the weather to be just right and assemble a team of experienced mixed gas divers to confirm the identity of the wreck.

Last week,

divers descended and found the L.R. Doty sitting almost upright on the seabed in 320 feet of water. First reports indicate that the 41-degree cold water preserved the vessel that was built in 1893 well. The rudder chain seems to be broken and the wooden hatch covers are missing. The cargo is still inside the wreck that was lost in history.

There are no plans to raise the L.R. Doty, which is now the property of and protected by the state of Wisconsin, meaning artifacts cannot be retrieved. Due to its depth, there is little risk that divers accidentally damage the wreck. Instead the cold water will continue to preserve the vessel as it did for the last 112 years.

Maritime historian Brendon Baillod, who is president of the Wisconsin Underwater Archeology Association, and other researchers published an extensive article summering the search for and discovery of the L.R. Doty. The article is available

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Chief Editor at Global Adventures Magazine

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