Sunday, February 25, 2007
Even in a state with a passion for ice fishing, a few augered holes in Duluth Minnesota are attracting an unusual amount of attention. Ten feet below the icy surface of Lake Superior lies an uncharted shipwreck, newly discovered by of all people, an ice skater. John Williams was skating last Thursday about 400 feet off the shore of Duluth's Park Point, when he was startled to see a dark image beneath the ice. "You could see it actually, real clearly through the ice," said Williams. Williams returned with an ice auger and an underwater camera a couple days later and soon realized he had stumbled on a large wooden boat that sank a long time ago. His camera showed wooden beams and ribs sticking out of the sandy lake bottom. Stretched across the wooden hull, was a metal drive shaft Williams estimates to be 25 feet long. One end of the drive shaft appeared to be fitted with a propeller.
City of WinnipegWord of William's discovery, so close to the shoreline, has been bringing out the curious. "I've kayaked past this spot, swam, everybody has," says Molly Haugen, who lives in the Park Point Neighborhood. "Nobody knew about it." Some neighbors believe Williams may have located the City of Winnipeg, a wooden passenger ship that, according to Minnesota Historical Society records, caught fire in 1881 and was later scuttled in the Park Point area. The ship's exact location has remained a mystery since. "It may turn out to be something that is really significant," said Thom Holden, a shipwreck historian who is the director of the Lake Superior Maritime Visitors Center. On the other hand Holden says the boat could be nothing more significant than a fishing tug that was scuttled by its owners after it was taken out of service. Equally mysterious is how the boat could go undiscovered in such shallow water so close to shore for so many years. Holden says it could have been carried there in recent years by storms or emerged because of lake levels that are now more than a foot below average. Holden says a team of trained divers from the Twin Cities will go down to take a closer look at the boat this weekend, hoping to learn more about its history.