The Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society has discovered a "peculiar" vessel that sunk in Lake Superior during a powerful October storm, nearly 120 years ago to the day.

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Whaleback Ship, Barge 129 Found in Lake Superior After 120 Years

The ship is a 292-foot Whaleback vessel, called Barge 129.

Barge 129 at Dock - Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society
Barge 129 at Dock - Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society

Barge 129 was found in Lake Superior, 35 miles off Vermilion Point in Michigan's Upper Peninsula in 650 feet of water. Check out photos of the find in the gallery below!

What is a Whaleback Ship?

According to, this type of ship is unusual:

A peculiar species of cargo ship populated the Great Lakes in the late 1800s – the whaleback. Designed by Scottish captain and inventor Alexander McDougall, these barge-inspired steamers sported extravagant cigar-shaped hulls with a continuous curve, not unlike the body of a whale.

The shape of these boats was an attempt to navigate the sometimes shallow waters and and narrow canals of the Great Lakes that posed a challenge to most lake barges.

SS Meteor, Superior Public Museums
SS Meteor, Superior Public Museums

Today, there is only one surviving Whaleback ship, the SS Meteor, which is docked in Superior, Wisconsin as a museum ship.

The Shipwreck of Barge 129 Off Michigan's Upper Peninsula

Barge 129 sank on October 13th, 1902.

The ship was in tow of the steamer Maunaloa, loaded up with iron ore, when they ran into a powerful, Michigan October storm.

Maunaloa - Great Lakes Historical Society
Maunaloa - Great Lakes Historical Society

The waves crashed and the wind howled, and eventually, the towline connecting the two ships snapped.

According to a release,

Barge 129 was then at the mercy of the storm. Maunaloa turned around in an attempt to reconnect the towline, but the wind and waves slammed the two ships together, with Maunaloa’s port side anchor ripping into Barge 129’s starboard side. As the barge began to sink, Captain Josiah Bailey and his crew moved quickly and struggled to launch their lifeboat. The crew of Maunaloa stood by, and eventually helped the Barge 129 crew onto their ship...just as the whaleback dove to the bottom of Lake Superior.

The Discovery of the Shipwreck of Barge 129

Barge 129 was found along with eight other wrecks in 2021 by the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society in partnership with Marine Sonic Technology using Side Scan Sonar.

GLSHS Director of Marine Operations Darryl Ertel Jr., says of the discovery,

I’ve looked for this ship for so long because it was a Whaleback. I was pretty excited. I couldn't wait to get the cameras on it. When the Shipwreck Society put their ROV (remotely operated vehicle) down on the wreck-site this past summer, they were surprised by the devastation of the ship.

Barge 129 Shipwreck Discovered in Lake Superior After 120 Years

Barge 129 went down in Lake Superior off the coast of Michigan's Upper Peninsula during a powerful storm Oct. 13, 1902.

Nearly 120 years later, the Great Lakes Historical Society discovered the sunken, 292-foot, Whaleback using Side Scan Sonar. The wreck was found 35 miles off Vermilion Point in 650 feet of water.

Take A Look At This Michigan Shipwreck After 130 Years In Lake Superior

Fan of Michigan shipwrecks in the Great Lakes? Take a look at this ship that has been at the bottom of Lake Superior for 130 years.

Old Michigan Shipwrecks, Early 1900s

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