Two historic Great Lakes shipwrecks discovered in Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary

NOAA maritime archaeologists and partners have located and identified two previously undiscovered historic shipwrecks in Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. The shipwrecks are the wooden steamer Ohio (1873-1894) and the steel-hulled steamer Choctaw (1892-1915).

In May 2017, a sanctuary-led expedition used high-resolution sonars to map the bottom of Lake Huron, during which they located the two ships.  At the time, researchers were confident they had discovered the 202-foot Ohio and the 266-foot Choctaw.  The team recently confirmed the vessels’ identities using underwater robots to collect photos and video of the shipwrecks.

The sanctuary is planning future expeditions to better understand, manage and interpret Ohio and Choctaw. Sanctuary staff also plan to develop exhibits and public outreach materials to enable divers and the public to access and learn more about these shipwrecks. Preserved by Lake Huron’s cold, freshwater, the shipwrecks will be nominated for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

Funded by a grant from NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, the project was made possible through research partnerships with NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, University of Delaware, Michigan Technological University, Northwest Michigan College, and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

For additional information about Ohio and Choctaw (including video and images) and more details about the expedition, please see Pushing the Boundaries: Technology-driven Exploration of Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

–Jeff Gray, Superintendent, Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

For more information, including media-quality images and video, please contact Sanctuary Media Coordinator Stephanie Gandulla at or 989-464-1297.


Type: Steel semi-whaleback
Launched: 1892 by Cleveland Ship Building Company, Ohio
Length: 267 feet
Beam: 38 feet
Gross Tonnage: 1,574
Cargo: coal
Wrecked: July 12, 1915


Type: Wooden bulk freighter
Launched: 1873 by John F. Squires, Huron, Ohio
Length: 202 feet
Beam: 35 feet
Gross Tonnage: 1,101
Cargo: Grain
Wrecked: September 26, 1894