In an interesting juxtaposition of the natural and manmade on Earth Day, the crystal clear post-winter waters of Lake Michigan have offered a rare glimpse of some of their hidden history.
A U.S. Coast Guard crew took a series of stunning photographs of shipwrecks lying on the lake bottom in the waters just off the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. The helicopter was a on a routine patrol when the crew spotted the wrecks and snapped pictures of them.
The shallow waters riddled with sharp rocks off the Leelanau Peninsula near Leland are the site of many 19th and early 20th century shipwrecks. The area is known as the Manitou Passage, between the mainland of the northwestern Lower Peninsula and North and South Manitou Islands.
Among the wrecks that the crew photographed was the Rising Sun, which foundered in 1917.
"This 133 foot long wooden steamer stranded just north of Pyramid Point," the Coast Guard said. "She went to pieces and her wreckage now rests in 6 to 12 feet of water."
Another was the James McBride, a 121-foot brig that ran around in 1857.
"Her remains lie in 5 to 15 feet of water near Sleeping Bear Point," the Coast Guard said. "The McBride encountered a gale and was driven ashore near Sleeping Bear Dune."
The U.S Park Service, which manages the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, announced last month that the wreck of the Jennie & Annie was visible again on the beach, halfway between North and South Bar lakes. The schooner grounded off Empire in 1872. The wreck becomes visible every few years depending on weather conditions.
Such weather include beach erosion, wind, waves and variable lake levels mean that various wreck fragments periodically become visible along the dunes shoreline.
The shipwrecks are considered public property and cannot legally be disturbed.