Shipwreck hunters find missing 1800s barge in Lake Superior

Published 9:02 am Friday, September 16, 2016

DULUTH — Three shipwreck hunters’ six-year search of Lake Superior for a 1800s schooner barge has ended successfully.

Jerry Eliason, Ken Merryman and Kraig Smith found the ship, called the Antelope, resting 300 feet below in the waters near the Apostle Islands earlier this month, the Star Tribune reported.

Eliason said the find is remarkable because it’s one of the only wooden schooners found at the bottom of the lake with its masts still standing.

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The trio teamed up about 25 years ago.

“I had worn out all my other shipwreck hunting friends,” Merryman said. “Shipwreck hunting is boring. . You spend a lot of time doing what we call mowing the lawn — going back and forth, back and forth in a search pattern. It’s good to have friends you can joke and laugh with, otherwise it would be very painful.”

They began their search for the Antelope in 2010 partly because they’d already found another shipwreck, the Marquette, near where the Antelope reportedly sank while en route to Duluth from Ashland, Wisconsin, in 1897. The ship’s entire crew was taken to safety on the Hiram W. Sibley steamer, which had been towing it.

Merryman was below deck aboard his 33-foot Owens cruiser on Sept. 2 when Eliason saw a black shadow on the sonar.

“I knew it was an intact wreck,” Eliason said.

The waves and wind became calm enough on Sept. 6 for the men to send a camera down to the depths of the lake.

Merryman, a member of the Great Lakes Shipwreck Preservation Society, said the organization will do what it can to preserve the ship. There’s a wonder in seeing something that no one else has in a century, he added.