Lake Erie, the enigmatic ship graveyard


The ship graveyard

Lake Erie has one of the highest numbers of shipwrecks on the planet.

The shoreline of Lake Erie near the town of Erie in Pennsylvania. It is possible to see the shallow depth of the water, which makes navigation difficult.


Lake Erie is one of the five Great Lakes, located in the northern United States of America and southern Canada. In terms of area, it is the 13th largest lake in the world.


Lake Erie is fickle, unpredictable, and at times violent. Storms are frequent and cause large waves, enhanced by the shallow depth of the lake.


Studying the lake, its dynamics, and the way other shipwrecks have occurred, can help prevent further events from occurring.

This type of behavior, which swings rapidly from a situation of almost stagnant waters to relatively large waves, makes it the area of ​​the globe with the highest incidence of shipwrecks, a rate that is higher than that of the famous Bermuda Triangle, according to one group. of Cleveland Underwater Explorers.

The number of shipwrecks in the lake is estimated between 500 and 2,500.

The Ohio Sea Grant project to date has successfully documented 277 shipwrecks, distributed throughout the lake area, but with particular incidence in the west of the lake, near cities such as Toledo and Cleveland.

Lake characterization

Lake Erie can be divided into three distinct areas: the eastern, western, and central areas. The last two are the most dangerous for navigation, since they are the shallowest areas. In these areas, where rocky outcrops and islands can be found, the average depth is only 7 meters, while the average depth of other areas of the lake is 17.5 meters.

The dynamics of the lake change very easily and in a very short time. During a day, in just 24 hours, the water level can vary by more than 2 meters, as a result of the action of the winds and the way in which the different water courses deposit their sediments in the lake. Thus, it is possible that the water level of the lake rises 2 meters in the extreme east and at the same time drops 2 meters in the west.

Another characteristic of the lake is that it has fresh water at low temperatures. Like the other four great lakes, it is easy to find very well preserved wrecks, since the type of water present does not favor erosion, unlike sea water.

In recent years, the lake has undergone a major change in its ecosystem. An invasive species of mussel can threaten the excellent conservation status of most shipwrecks and artifacts found on the lake’s muddy bottom. However, this same species has been in charge of filtering the water, making it clearer, taking solar radiation and light to depths close to 60 meters.