Low water levels of Lake Michigan expose legendary shipwrecks - FOX 35 News Orlando

Low water levels of Lake Michigan expose legendary shipwrecks

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Whether it's climate change or other causes, a lengthy drought this year has caused lots of concern about the decreasing water level in Lake Michigan. But, on the lakefront in western Michigan, the low water levels have produced some pleasant surprises.

Valerie Van Heest has made a career of exploring shipwrecks on the floor of Lake Michigan, so last week she was excited when an acquaintance sent her a photo of what looked like a possible shipwreck near Grand Haven Michigan. But, this one wasn't under hundreds of feet of water.

"I originally had a photograph sent to me, and my goodness, it looked like the bones of dinosaur," Marine Archaeologist Van Heest says. "I knew immediately we were dealing with a huge ship."

This is what's left of the Aurora, a 290-foot wooden steamship built in 1887. With Lake Michigan at one of its lowest levels ever, the Aurora has recently surfaced and has been visited by hundreds of visitors in recent days. No scuba gear required.

"There's about three more that we found when we were walking around today," says shipwreck tourist Corey Brown.

Van Heest says seven shipwrecks have been discovered recently due to receding waters. The Aurora is by far the largest.

"I'm a historian. It's wonderful from that perspective to see this without the constraints of scuba gear and low visibility," Van Heest says.

The Aurora cruised the Great Lakes until 1932, when it was brought to Grand Haven, labeled as outdated and set on fire.

Kenneth Pott, director of a local museum, says its emergence is a valuable addition to the area's maritime heritage.

"I'd like to see the lake levels, the river levels come back up, but this certainly represents a very exciting opportunity for heritage tourism here," Pott says.

Pott says lots of people have suggested that the shipwreck be excavated and moved, say, to a museum, so it won't disappear when water levels rise again. But he says it's going to stay right here, where it was found.

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