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Published: Tuesday, 12/10/2013

Shipwreck hunter reports finding steamer Keystone State that sank in 1861 in Lake Huron

ASSOCIATED PRESS

HARRISVILLE, Mich. — A veteran Great Lakes shipwreck hunter said he and his crew have found the wreck of a wooden steamer that sank in 1861 in Lake Huron.

David Trotter, 72, of Wayne County’s Canton Township, said the Keystone State was found during a July search, the Detroit Free Press reported. It was heading from Detroit to Milwaukee when it sank during a powerful November storm, claiming 33 lives.

The find is in nearly 175 feet of water, about 25-30 miles northeast of Harrisville. The wreck site is about 180 miles north of Detroit.

“My expectations were diminished because there was no reason to think she was this far north,” Mr. Trotter said.

The nearly 300-foot-long Keystone State was built in Buffalo, N.Y. It had paddle wheels on its sides nearly 40 feet in diameter. The ship was among a class known as palace steamers, according to maritime historian, author and artist Robert McGreevy.

“The interiors were made to look like the finest hotels. They were quite beautiful inside,” he said. “They had leaded glass windows and carved arches and mahogany trim.”

Maritime historian C. Patrick Labadie said the wreck’s discovery can shed light on ship construction methods of the era and how people once traveled.

“This one stands out,” Mr. Labadie said. “It’s a unique wreck.”

Using a side-scan sonar device, Mr. Trotter and his team found the shipwreck the weekend after July 4. Crew members made 30 dives on the site from July through September.

Divers shot video for DVDs that Mr. Trotter will sell online and use in presentations.

“The stern is kind of broken up and crumbled. The boilers are in good condition, the engine is in good condition,” said diver Marty Lutz, 56, of Warren. “The wheels are both standing. ... It was pretty amazing to see those sitting upright on the bottom like that.”



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