Westmoreland Shipwreck

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There are few shipwrecked vessels in all of the Great Lakes that can match the Westmoreland treasure-ship story.

During her last voyage, on board the Westmoreland, there were 280 barrels of whisky in her hold and $100,000 in gold coins according to legend. But Ross Richardson, diver, and discoverer (Lake Ann, Michigan USA) of the Westmoreland (July 7, 2010) refutes that claim. And, according to law, removing artefacts from wrecks is illegal. Leaving relics intact offers divers a bit of history to see, and a photographers delight. Dozens of watertight barrels of flour came to the surface during the sinking of the Westmoreland and ended up along Lake Michigan’s shoreline. This flour was a necessary staple for early settlers in cooking to survive the harsh winter.

Westmoreland
Photo Credit: Dusty Klifman

Because of advances in diving and sonar technologies, Ross Richardson had advantages over expeditions before him. He had been researching the Westmoreland since 2003, but when he found her, unlike others, he ended up in the right place at the right time.

For 155 years the Westmoreland has stood upright in 200-feet cold water, north of Traverse City, Lake Michigan, where summer holidaymakers love to cavort. The first expedition to locate the ship was in 1872 and was spearheaded by the first mate whom survived the sinking, so the rumour of the valuable freight could have been real. Expeditions started in the 1930’s to locate the Westmoreland and continued every decade to the 21st century, but none of these attempts were successful in locating the ship, until Ross Richardson in 2010. This was a solo dive by Richardson, his first, all the while videotaping the wreck.

Westmoreland
Photo Credit: Dusty Klifman

The Westmoreland was less than three miles from safety after spending 18 hours battling a blizzard on Lake Michigan. At mid-morning on Dec. 7, 1854, rising water finally extinguished a fire in the boiler, left the cargo-laden steamer helpless and thrown at the mercy of dark, frozen seas off the then-remote stretch of the Lake Michigan coastline. In the deep, frigid waters of Platte Bay, half of the souls on board the Westmoreland would soon perish. The other half would spread a ship’s legend about the treasure onboard.

The Westmoreland is in excellent condition, and perhaps one of the most well-preserved shipwrecks on the planet since the 1850s, according to Ross Richardson.

This is a 200 foot dive in deep dark, cold waters and solo diving is not recommended.

Westmoreland
Photo Credit: Dusty Klifman

Ross published a book “The Search for the Westmoreland” in 2012 which describes his research and finally his find.

Thanks to Dusty Klifman @ Blueyes Below for the video and pictures

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About Author

Kathy is the owner of Kirk Scuba Gear, a passionate Scuba Diver, Ocean Advocate and Managing Editor of The Scuba News Canada

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