TAKE A LOOK: ‘Bad Luck Barquentine’ discovered in Lake Superior after 152 years

The Nucleus sank on September 14, 1869.
The “Bad Luck Barquentine” named Nucleus was discovered off the coast of Lake Superior.
The “Bad Luck Barquentine” named Nucleus was discovered off the coast of Lake Superior.(The Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society (GLSHS))
Published: Feb. 8, 2023 at 11:04 AM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - A 19th-century ship deemed to have ‘bad luck’ has been discovered on the bottom of Lake Superior off of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society (GLSHS) announced the discovery on Wednesday.

The 144-foot Barquentine named Nucleus was found in 600 feet of water in the largest of the Great Lakes in 2021 and was positively identified in 2022.

The Nucleus sank on September 14, 1869, as it traveled downbound from Marquette with a load of iron ore. The ship earned the moniker ‘Bad Luck Barquentine’ as the ship had already sunk twice and rammed and sank the S.S. Detroit in Lake Huron in 1854. A Barquentine is described as a sailing vessel with three or more masts, a square, rigged foremast and fore-and-aft rigged main, mizzen, and any other masts.

On September 14. 1869, the Nucleus was caught in one of Lake Superior’s signature bad storms and began to take on water. Soon, the leak had become so bad, the crew had to abandon the ship. The Nucleus sank shortly after the crew boarded their lifeboat.

While the Nucleus had its share of bad luck leading up to this incident, the crew followed suit as they cast off from the sinking ship. A few hours after taking to the lifeboat, the crew spotted and hailed the passing S.S. Union.

“The officers reportedly spotted the Nucleus crew struggling in the storm… but chose to keep on steaming, leaving them behind,” stated the GLSGS.

Fortunately, despite the bad luck surrounding them, the crew was soon picked up by the schooner Worthington, with no loss of life.

With the shipwreck in 1869, the sinking of the Nucleus is one of the oldest ships to go down along the Lake Superior coast.

“This is a pretty significant shipwreck…considering its age, the fact that it is a barquentine and we can’t overlook the vessel’s checkered past,” said Shipwreck Society Executive Director, Bruce Lynn. “The wreck site is littered with shovels too…and a few dinner plates, which speaks to their work and shipboard life.”

A video and photos of the wreckage can be seen below.

The GLSHS discovered the Nucleus by using a Marine Sonic Technology side-scan sonar and later positively identified the wreck using the organization’s ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle).

GLSHS Director of Marine Operations, Darryl Ertel Jr., found the wreck to be in surprisingly good condition.

“The stern was intact. It had a straight back stern and then the port side also was intact,” Ertel said. “I was more excited about it because at first, I thought it was totally in pieces on the bottom.”

Just under a year ago, the Atlanta was discovered at the bottom of Lake Superior 130 years after sinking.

VIDEO: Shipwreck discovered at bottom of Lake Superior after 130 years

In October of 2021, the GLSHS discovered three 1800′s-era shipwrecks in Lake Superior around the vicinity of Grand Marais, MI.

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