Ross Richardson has spent the last decade searching for and documenting shipwrecks off the coast of west Michigan.His hobby has been made much easier with recent advancements in side-scan sonar technology.
But that technology, Richardson fears, may, 10 years from now, render his hobby obsolete.
The Lake Ann resident discovered three still unidentified wrecks off Sleeping Bear Point, near the Sleeping Bear Dunes in 2011. They were all discovered about one-half mile from each other in 12-20 feet of water fairly close to the shoreline. He believes the wrecks were recently uncovered due to shifting sands in the area that were uncovered during a storm, and he happened to be in the right place at the right time. Sleeping Bear Point is subject to numerous landslides, which probably helped bury the wrecks for years. He believes they all wrecked in the area sometime in the 1850s to the 1890s.
Richardson has not found any cargo at any of the sites, but because the wrecks are in such shallow water, salvagers probably recovered the cargo a long time ago.
Unfortunately, for Richardson and others like him, shipwreck hunting in the Great Lakes may be an era that is coming to an end. According to Ross, the new sonar technology will make it possible to discover all remaining shipwrecks on the bottom of the lakes within the next 10-15 years. He believes there are still “a couple hundred shipwrecks" in deep water intact that are still not found.
“In another 10-15 years, there’s going to be no other shipwrecks to go out there and look for. They’re all going to be discovered,” he said.
Here is my video interview with Ross Richardson regarding his discoveries and the end of an era in shipwreck hunting.