Changing Waters Reveal Lake Michigan Shipwreck
A change in Lake Michigan's water levels has once again revealed a shipwreck from the 1880s. The last time we were able to see the wooden spine of the Contest was in 2018.
Before 2018, the shipwreck was exposed in 1942 and 1974. At that time, Pete Caesar, the first keeper of the White River Lighthouse Museum, spotted the wreckage and immediately tried to identify it.
Caesar believed it was the L.C. Woodruff, a 170-foot schooner that was lost in 1878. Before the lighthouse was established in 1875, several schooners sank in the 1800s near the White Lake Channel because they were unable to maneuver in hazardous weather conditions.
In 2005, a beachcomber came across the remains of another shipwreck about a mile north of the White Lake Channel. After reviewing photographs, Wisconsin historian Brendon Baillod suggested that the remains found belonged to the Woodruff.
In 2018, members of the Michigan Shipwreck Research Association assessed the re-emerged wreckage and discovered that the ship they previously thought was the Woodruff, may actually be the Contest.
Director of the Michigan Shipwreck Research Association, Valerie van Heest says six different schooners met their fate near the channel and three of them were believed to have come ashore in the 1850s and 1860s. They were able to rule those three out because the channel wasn't always located in the spot it is now.
Heest says that left three possibilities,
One is a small schooner named the Madison, which was only 67-feet long, the medium-sized schooner named the Contest which was 124-feet long or the 170-foot long the L.C. Woodruff.
After more research, the MSRA were able to take exact measurements and rule out that the vessel was around 120-feet long. Which means the wreckage is most likely the remains of the Contest.