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Published: Thursday, 6/21/2007

157-year-old shipwreck found in Lake Erie; 38 died in sinking


VERMILION, Ohio The wreckage of a steamship that sank in 1850 after its boilers exploded has been discovered at the bottom of Lake Erie.

Thomas Kowalczk, an amateur shipwreck prospector, used sonar on his boat to discover the General Anthony Wayne in 50 feet of water, about eight miles north of this northeast Ohio city, the Great Lakes Historical Society announced Wednesday.

The side-wheel steamship, named in honor of Revolutionary War hero Gen. Mad Anthony Wayne, sank in April 1850 while en route from the Toledo area to Buffalo, N.Y. Thirty-eight of the 93 passengers and crew on board died.

I researched everything I could about it and knew the general area where the ship went down, Kowalczk said. I laid out a grid search pattern and starting hunting.

Kowalczk saw an image of the wreckage on his sonar screen in September. He dived down in May and photographed the wreckage, which is in two sections.

Kowalczk and other members of the Cleveland Underwater Explorers plan to survey the wreck later this summer when underwater visibility improves.

The wreck belongs to the state and salvaging it is illegal, but divers can visit what is left of the ship after it is surveyed and the coordinates are disclosed, said Christopher Gillcrist, executive director of the historical society.

Read more in later editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com.

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