Lake Michigan shipwrecks visible through the air

The waters on Lake Michigan are so clear the U.S Coast Guard was able to see shipwrecks last week.

The ships are visible after the lake's ice melts, and before summer sediment swirls and algae blooms.

Though the past winter was the hottest on record, it was cold enough from the Great Lakes to the east coast to send seasonal sheets of ice creeping across the Great Lakes. Now that that ice has cleared with spring, Lake Michigan is clear enough that shipwrecks lying on the lake bottom can be seen from the air.

The U.S. Coast Guard Air Station in Traverse City noted the crystal clear water conditions and the lost ships during a routine patrol. Last week, they posted a handful of pictures to their Facebook page. The images come from the area near Sleeping Bear Point known as the Manitou Passage Underwater Preserve, which is "one of the richest areas in Michigan for shipwreck diving," according to the preserve's website. The lumber industry put the area on a shipping route. The North and South Manitou Islands, just north of the point, provided a somewhat sheltered area for ships hiding from storms.

The Coast Guard Air Station added what information people could dredge up from the depths of the Internet to their descriptions of each of the photos, but of the five ships they posted, three remain unidentified.

Other wrecks in the Manitou Passage include The Francisco Morazan, an ocean-going freighter driven aground during a snowstorm on November 29, 1960. The Morazan sank right on top of the remains of the Walter L. Frost, a wooden steamer lost on November 4, 1903. Both wrecks are in shallow water just a few hundred yards from shore, the preserve's website reports.

Like other Great Lakes, Lake Michigan endures algal blooms fueled by agricultural runoff. Warmer temperatures will likely nurture the blooms and obscure the wrecks this summer, making these views particularly rare.

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