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UNH research team helps discover shipwreck from 1894 in one of the Great Lakes

By Marissa Tansino

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    DURHAM, New Hampshire (WMUR) — A boat that sank more than 100 years ago in one of the Great Lakes was discovered with the help of the University of New Hampshire’s underwater robot.

The “Ironton” was a 191-foot ship that sank in 1894 and was still completely intact at the bottom of Lake Huron, all found with the help of a team from UNH.

“It’s such a beautiful image of that ship because it looks like it just sailed down to the bottom of the lake and all upright,” said Val Schmidt, research engineering manager and UNH team lead. “There’s a huge portion of that sanctuary that hasn’t been mapped with sonar mapping systems with modern mapping capability.”

Schmidt said the UNH team was asked to join the NOAA-led expedition to finally find the “Ironton.” With several other search teams on deck, the UNH team used its autonomous surface vehicle named BEN, an acronym for Bathymetric Explorer and Navigator.

BEN does underwater mapping above the water and is operated remotely by the crew, using sonar to map the ocean floor or lakebed, UNH said.

Schmidt said he did not expect to be part of such an incredible discovery.

“It was just kind of a fantastic ghostly image of that vessel down there and a real reminder of I think five people lost their lives in that wreck quite tragic, so we took some time to have remembrance for them,” Schmidt said.

This discovery was not the first or the last.

Schmidt said there’s still more work to be done there and he hopes to be invited back to assist.

“So many ships have gone down there over the years,” Schmidt said. “They think there’s over 100 ships they have not found yet and they’ve found 100 already.”

Schmidt said they hope to help the sanctuary do more exploring with some new technology over the next few years.

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