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Photos: An Underwater Look At Wisconsin's Incredible Shipwreck Graveyard

By Stephen Gossett in News on Mar 15, 2017 2:05PM

Just north of Chicago, near the Wisconsin coast, lies a cemetery of sorts.

More than a thousand shipwrecks dot the bed of Lake Michigan, according to most estimates. One large patch of lake area, who's southern border is a mere two-hour drive from Chicago, is home to several of the most well-known shipwrecks in the Great Lakes region—plus as many as 80 known shipwrecks yet to be discovered. That 1,075-square-mile region, which stretches roughly from Port Washington (just north of the Milwaukee region) up to Manitowoc, could soon be granted status as a national marine sanctuary—which would help guarantee its safekeeping and, in the process, preserve what is essentially an underwater museum for sightseeing divers and snorkelers.

A national marine sanctuary in the Great Lakes is almost unprecedented; only one such designation exists, in Lake Huron. But the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is hoping to change that with this latest proposal, which is in the midst of public-meeting stages now in Wisconsin. We're crossing our flippers that it progresses because 1) Great Lakes can use all the help they can get in terms of preservation focus right now and 2) judging from available photos, it's clear why the underwater treasure trove has become a diver magnet. We're weighing scuba-class costs just cycling through the gallery.

"The area under consideration holds 37 known shipwrecks including Wisconsin's two oldest known shipwrecks discovered to date - the Gallinipper (1833) and the Home (1843)," according to NOAA.

In the photoset above, you can see remnants of ships that lie within that proposed sanctuary region, plus several that fall closer to home, further south down the Wisconsin shoreline.

Perhaps the most famous and certainly among the most favorited among divers is the Appomattox, built in 1896 and run aground near Milwaukee in 1905. "At 319 feet, the Appomattox was the largest wooden bulk steamer ever constructed on the Great Lakes, possibly in the world," according to Wisconsin Shipwrecks. Put simply, she was one of the biggest wooden ships ever, and even buried 23 ft. underwater she continues to impress.