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New book featuring ships lost on the Canadian Great Lakes highlights the Ghost Fleet of Lake Huron

Ian Harvey

A new book just published as part of the sesquicentennial celebration in Canada features famous shipwrecks found on the bottom of the Great Lakes.

One set of wrecks of particular interest is the “ghost fleet” that lies on the lakebed of Lake Huron, north of Sarnia, Ontario.

Satellite image of the Great Lakes

Satellite image of the Great Lakes

The fleet was comprised of four ships; all sank in the St. Clair River at different times and from different causes, and they lay within three kilometers of each other under 70 feet of water. In time, the decision was made to move the wrecks to Sarnia Bay, which at that point was where old ships were relegated. Not all ships put there remain in the bay today; some were moved when the bay became too cluttered with sunken ships.

Due to the cold, freshwater environment of the Great Lakes, shipwrecks there are very well-preserved. Even though some of the wrecks are very old, some having spent 150 years underwater, they look as fresh as they did when they first sank. Divers can explore the ruins, and some wrecks can even be seen from the surface through the clear water.

The four ships of the Ghost Fleet are the Sachem, the Aztec, the Yakima, and the Province. The Aztec caught fire in May of 1923 and was towed to Sarnia Bay. To be removed from the bay, she had to be dynamited; many pieces of her rest on the deck of the Province, which was moved the same year. The Province capsized on the St. Clair River with the loss of three lives. The Yakima became stranded on Stag Island and burned there. She was sunk in the harbor but moved to Lake Huron in 1928. Sachem was a wooden steamer that burned and sank near Port Lambton on the St. Clair.

It was scuttled in Lake Huron after its owner abandoned her, The Sarnia Journal reported. The book, titled Canada’s 150 Most Famous Great Lakes Shipwrecks, is written by two experienced scuba divers, Joan Forsberg and Cris Kohl, who also supplied all the photographs.

Lake St Clair satellite image

Lake St Clair satellite image

The purpose of the book does not only help celebrate Canada’s sesquicentennial but also educate people.

Read another story from us: 200-year-old shipwreck discovered in the Great Lakes

They stress that if it weren’t for the ships that plied the Great Lakes, some of the towns that overlook the shipwrecks would not be here today.