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Mystery Schooner In Lake Michigan Special Report

Shipwreck In Lake Michigan Dates Back to 1800s


Vince Gerasole
reports on
The Mystery Schooner
on CBS News

(CBS) CHICAGO Tom Palmisano is going back in time, back to an era when hundreds of wooden schooners filled our bustling harbors every day, making Chicago the busiest port in the country.

The shipwreck that Palmisano is diving on is one of the many vessels that sank in fierce Lake Michigan storms. But this wreck, dating back to the late 1800s, is a very rare find.

“Normally our shipwrecks are in bad shape,” Palmisano said. “Fortunately, this ship is very far out, very deep, and well preserved by the freshwater that it's in.”

It's so intact that even after a century, the masts and rigging are still attached

“Everything's there. It's a time capsule from 115 years ago,” said Taras Lyssenko with A & T Recovery.

Lyssenko found this shipwreck when he was surveying the lake bottom for old Navy aircraft. There on his sonar, undetectable to the untrained eye, was a distinct schooner-like shape.

“If you look close there's the back end, this is the bow. This stuff is rigging,” Lyssenko said.

While Lyssenko may have found the wreck, he hasn't found conclusive proof of its identity. But he has a hunch.

“We have a pretty educated guess that its length matches, its width matches, its depth matches … a good chance that it's the Thomas Hume,” he said.

The lumber schooner, Thomas Hume, nearly identical to this ship, was last seen leaving Chicago on May 21, 1891, bound for her home port of Muskegon. Newspapers reported her missing in a spring storm, and no trace of the vessel or her crew of seven was ever found until last month.

In order to verify the wreck as the Hume, divers will have to find the ship's registration number carved somewhere on the deck. A difficult task that will involve scraping off thousands of zebra mussels. For history buff and diver Palmissano, it's a labor of love.

“It's always a working project. Every time we go down we learn more about the ship,” Palmisano said.

Lyssenko and his group hope to conclusively identify the mystery ship in the next couple of months.

(© MMV, CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.)


Click for Photos

Thomas Hume

The Schooner Thomas Hume originally was named the H. C. Albrecht. Named after Capt. Harry C. Albrecht who built and sailed the boat in the early 1870s. In 1891 the Schooner Thomas Hume operated in the lumber trade hauling cargo from Muskegon to Chicago. The schooner Thomas Hume, presumed sunk after missing in a Lake Michigan gale on May 21, 1891.

A&T Recovery, Chicago-based firm, has already recovered 31 World War II planes
from the lake on behalf of the National Museum of Naval Aviation

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