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On Monday, October 24, 1898, the merchant ship; L.R. Doty set sail from South Chicago, loaded with a cargo hold full of corn. The ship, a 291 foot long steamer,with a steel reinforced hull, was only five years old at the time of its departure. Intending to deliver its bounty to Ontario, Canada, the state of the art steam freighter never made it half way to its intended destination. Painting of Ship
Manned by 17 crewmen, and two cats, by the names of Watson, and Dewey, the ship steamed forward for twenty miles along the Illinois shoreline, all of what is now a part of the Chicago shore and eventually made its way out into the open sea. Brendon@shipwreck.com
A modern marvel of its time, and according to Brendon Baillod, Author, and president of the Wisconsin Underwater Archaeology Association, the ship was capable of withstanding most any weather conditions that the Great Lake effects could ever have thrown its way.
“She vanished with no real explanation. She was a pretty new ship. We wanted to solve that mystery; why she disappeared in a Lake Michigan storm that she should have been able to handle:” Baillod commented Wednesday.
As fate would have it, however,the great ship, along with its massive cargo of 107,000 bushels of corn, was also towing a much smaller, four masted schooner, Cristened, the Olive Jeanette.
Sometime during the night the winds began to change, bringing great amounts of sleet, snow, and extremely high waves. Baillods map and notes:As the great nor’easter, pushed waves as high as thirty feet into the face of the ship, on October 25th, 1898, around 40 hours into their journey, the tow line snapped separating the two vessels in the surging storm.
What took place after that is not absolutely certain, but is surmised, that the L.R.Doty made a turn to try to rescue the now foundering Olive Jeanette.
The Captain of the Olive Jeanette, which, some how made it back just off shore of Chicago, before capsizing, reported that the Doty kept full steam ahead when the tow line broke, apparently not realizing yet that it had happened.
As the ship has now been found, in pristine condition,and sitting in an up right position, 320 feet below the surface, it is assumed that one of the massive waves broke over the top of the ship, either capsizing her broad side, or taking it under, in one giant gulp.
Though the time from its departure, till the raging sea swallowed its previously deemed unsinkable form took less than 48 hours, the L.R. Doty, has remained ghostly quiet for 112 years, until last week, June 16,2010,when Jitka Hanakova, owner of Shipwreck Explorers, and her team of divers swam their way to breathless depths in 41 degree water to lay the first human eyes on her remains ever in this, or even all of the last century.
Outfitted with the latest technically advanced, gas/air type diving equipment, the team fulfilled the twenty year hopes, and joint efforts, of maritime historians, like Brendon Baillod, Great Lakes Archeology, and others.
Baillod, along with other historians, and the Great Lake Maritime, and underwater Archeological Association, spent the latter part of 20 years researching, and gathering nineteenth century news clips, and charted wreckage debris locations.
Hanakova, a charter/dive boat Captain, and owner had worked with Baillod on her dive boat, the Molly V, in the discovery of the sunken, Robert C. Pringle, in 2008.
During that time they also discussed reports from 1991, of a fishing trawler, snagging something extremely large, and deep about 20 miles off the shore of Milwaukee. Later, the two ran into one another at the annual Milwaukee Ghost Ship Festival, in 2009, and set their hooks, and aspirations into netting the snag’s location, in hopes of finding the L.R. Doty.
In May of this year, Hanakova, and her crew had not only found the location, but, with the assistance of a Sonar Fish finder, measured, and marked out the outline of something matching the dimensions of the L.R
With diving technologies coming of age, as recently as the year 2000, to allow for much deeper explorations, Jitka Hanakova, Brendon Baillod, and the crew of the Molly V, put in to seek the final resting place of the L.R. Doty.
“She comes into site, when you reach the depths below 200 feet, and the murkier the water, the more ghostly she appears”. Hanakova said.
There are no plans for salvaging the wreckage, as sources say that the cold, fresh waters of the great Lake Michigan is what has kept the ship preserved as well as it is. Baillod said that should the air hit the wood of the ship, it would begin to deteriorate immediately, and rot away completely in just a matter of a few years.
But, there is little worry that the great nineteenth century steamer will feel alone, at rest in her watery grave, as more than 500 other undiscovered ships lie somewhere on the Lake’s floor along with her.
In fact, the horrific storm of October, 1898, which took her under to rest, 320 feet, at the bottom of the Great Lake Michigan, was the worst storm recorded on the Lakes, for 30 years, and took many other vessels, and sailor alike, to the depths of a cold, untimely demise, deep to the lake bed below.
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