Researchers get a new look a Lake Huron shipwrecks

Researchers get a new look a Lake Huron shipwrecks

LAKE HURON, Mi (WPBN/WGTU) -- Researchers on Lake Huron say there are almost 100 shipwrecks in its main shipping channel.

From their research, they think there could be up to 100 more that they have not found.

Just a few miles off the coast on Presque Isle is one of the busiest shipping channels in the country.

For the past couple of years, these researchers from the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary have been planning this mission.

With the help of Michigan Technological University, they're getting a new look at wrecks from more than a century ago.

“Clearly risky to put humans down at you know 250, 300 feet," said Guy Meadows, the director of the Great Lakes Research Center at Michigan Tech. "If we can develop the technology to do a really accurate job, then we can use the machine to do that very dangerous work.”

The machine is a drone owned by Michigan Tech, and can go as far down as 350 feet.

Once the drone is in the water, it becomes autonomous and makes passes over the shipwreck just about 15 meters above it using sonar technology to scan the bottom of the lake.

Researchers launch the drone and let it go to work.

Once it's done with its mission, data can be downloaded on the on-board computers.

The images it captures look like photographs, but are actually created using sound.

The first mission showed the Florida, a freighter that sank in 1897.

It shows where it was struck, right in its middle.

So research, both historical and in the field like what we’re doing right now is important, because it helps us fulfill both of those aspects of our mission: Managing the sights that are within the sanctuary’s boundaries and exploring the unexplored areas to find the ones that have yet to be discovered,” said John Bright, the research coordinator at the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

The next ship explored was the Typo, a 137 foot schooner that sank in 1899 when it was hit by a steamer.

Divers have been down to take photos of both of these wrecks, but adding the sonar images gives researchers more of a broad understanding of the wreck.

Putting it all together might be able to help them answer some questions about the ship's past.

“Often times we have to use artifacts, but also the dimensions, the sizes, the location of vessels and sort of work towards the center, work in to the middle to figure out what a vessel is and what its history is,” Bright said.

The team considered this mission a success, getting high resolution images they haven't seen before.

In about two weeks, the team will go back to those wrecks and dive down to take more pictures.

Adding the two will allow them to create a 3-D model of the wrecks.

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