Seeking Shipwrecks on the Great Lakes | Midwest Living
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Seeking Shipwrecks on the Great Lakes

Thousands of ships, pulled under by the Great Lakes and eerily preserved in their icy waters, give visitors a glimpse into a treacherous past.

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The Ghosts Below

The Bermuda's story is fresh in my memory from Linda Laraway's telling in the cabin of the Linda K. Loaded with iron ore, the Bermuda took shelter from a storm in Munising Bay 135 years ago, leaking through seams loosened by the pounding. The captain and first mate went ashore for help (or to visit the local brothel, depending on the storyteller), leaving three men aboard. Water filled the hull, pulling the Bermuda down and drowning the sleeping crewmen. Salvagers later raised the ship and moved it to nearby Murray Bay, where it sunk again once the ore was removed.

The closer I get to the wreck, the better I feel about Linda's assurance that the drowned crewmen are no longer aboard, but, according to legend, buried on the surrounding shores of Grand Island in graves once marked simply "Sailor."

Then reality wipes away rumination as the massive wooden bow of the Bermuda sharply materializes in the green water. It's closer than I expected, only about 6 feet below me, the prow seemingly threatening to jab me right in the chest and reel me in. Shafts of sunlight reveal the deck's wide oak boards, and I can follow their grain until they disappear in the gloom. Caulk more than a century old still shows between some of the planks. I instinctively swim along the outside of the rail rather than over the deck, feeling with an unexplainable certainty that I don't want to get too close.

Circling the wreck with gentle kicks of my flippers, I hear only the lonely sound of my own steady breathing through the snorkel. The bay's gentle waves want to wash me across the deck, over the gaping rear hatch. Linda told me that divers love to enter that hatch and swim the length of the Bermuda below decks, but I can't even bring myself to drift over the black hole, knowing that three men drowned somewhere down there. The quicksilver bubble rising from below decks probably came from some fish, but who's to say?

Snapping a few pictures on my waterproof camera, I consider how different these shots will be from the usual vacation photos of grinning families. But these images, I'm certain, are the ones that will cast a spell over friends at home, drawing them irresistibly with me into the world of the shipwrecks and the mighty lakes.

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