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Shipwreck search yields surprise discovery

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Discovery Channel researchers seeking the remains of two French warships that sank in Lake Superior more than 100 years ago were shocked when they stumbled across the wreck of a missing tugboat that went down in 1879 – some four decades before their target vessels.

The Satellite was only 15 years old when it set out on 21 June 1879 on a routine trip to Duluth in Minnesota from Detroit towing four schooner barges. According to a letter written by the captain a couple of days later, it sprang a leak, and though the crew managed to keep it afloat for some two hours, eventually, they had to abandon ship and it vanished beneath the surface.

Despite this explanation, the cause of the Satellite's sinking is still up for debate – some eye-witnesses stated the vessel suffered mechanical issues, another said it hit a log.

Expedition Unknown host Josh Gates and a team of experienced researchers were on Lake Superior looking for the Inkerman and the Cerisoles, two minesweepers built in Michigan for the French dueing World War One. They disappeared in a fierce storm in 1918 on their maiden voyage to Europe, tragically taking their entire crews with them.

Expedition Unknown focuses on puzzling stories and unsolved mysteries, and with no trace of the two French vessels since they sank, they made the perfect subjects. However, the surprise discovery of the Satellite will make a worthy addition to the show, as according to Gates, the images from the ROV sent down to investigate shows the tugboat ‘sitting perfectly upright; it was almost like looking at a ship in a bottle'.

Photo credit: Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society

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Mark Evans
Mark Evans
Scuba Diver's Editorial Director Mark Evans has been in the diving industry for nearly 25 years, and has been diving since he was just 12 years old. nearly 40-odd years later and he is still addicted to the underwater world.
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