Why searching for shipwrecks in Great Lakes has never been easier

One study estimates there are more than 6,000 shipwrecks among the 5 Great Lakes

An aerial photo of Lake Michigan from Chicago. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

If you love traveling to any of the Great Lakes during the summer, then there is another activity you could partake in other than swimming, boating or fishing: Searching for shipwrecks.

There are several reasons why this might be the “golden age” of shipwreck searching, according to an article by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

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Citing findings from the University of Buffalo, the article said there is more than 6,000 shipwrecks on the bottom of the five Great Lakes, which have been sunk since the 1600s by vicious storms, accidents or in wars.

It has never been easier to locate such shipwrecks, for four big reasons, according to the article.

1. Climate change

Winters in recent years have been warmer than usual, and this past winter was even more so in the Great Lakes region. The higher temperatures left little to no ice coverage when the Great Lakes usually average roughly 40% for a given winter.

The warmth has had negative environmental impacts, but has been somewhat helpful for locating shipwrecks due to lower lake levels and higher rates of erosion on sandy shores that have destroyed coastlines.

2. Clearer waters due to invasive species

Freighters coming from Europe through the Great Lakes have introduced species such as invasive zebra and quagga mussels. So why is that such a big deal? Because it has made normally muddier Great Lakes water clearer.

The Great Lakes have become so much clearer that some are finding wrecks through Google Earth or other satellite imagery.

Last year, a Canadian man was able to set a Guinness World Record for longest underwater photo shoot in Lake Huron.

3. Technology advances

Whether it’s better cameras, drones, underwater scooters or devices that help people breathe longer underwater, the technology to explore shipwrecks has never been better. In October, a ship called “The Africa” that sank in Lake Huron in 1895 was discovered by a couple filming a documentary on the surface of the Great Lakes.

4. More public interest

Videos and pictures of shipwrecks often go viral on social media, and new discoveries make headlines around the world.

People simply are fascinated by shipwrecks. In Paradise, Michigan, located in the state’s Upper Peninsula along Lake Superior, there is a museum devoted to shipwrecks and paying tribute to those who lost their lives in them.

The article went on to mention that this “golden age” of shipwreck searching might only last roughly 30 years. Because climate change is affecting ice levels, more light and zebra mussels are filtering their way down to the wrecks, causing them to erode and essentially vanish.

No doubt, that explains why so many are trying to locate shipwrecks, and the next couple of decades will likely feature more people trying to do so than ever before in history.

About the Author

Keith is a member of Graham Media Group's Digital Content Team, which produces content for all the company's news websites.

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