Straits of Mackinac Shipwreck Preserve

Dolphin

Depth: 110′
Dimensions: 119.7′ x 26.6′ x 11.1′
Cargo: Coal
Cause of Sinking: Collision with bark Badger State
Built: 1862,  Allen, McLelland & Co.,  Milwaukee WI
Date Lost: July 6, 1869
Construction: Wooden schooner: 1 deck, 2 masts, square stern, scorpion head
Propulsion: Sail
Skill Level: Intermediate to Advanced
Location:
N45 49.132 W84 59.748

History

The Dolphin was one of a number of vessels with that name sailing during this era, leading to great confusion over which vessel was being referenced.  Newspapers began referring to them as “Dolphin #1” and “Dolphin #2”, for example.  This vessel was registered with the Official Number 6205, and was otherwise known as the “Dolphin of Racine” for her home port of Racine Wisconsin.  The Dolphin was lost in a collision with the bark Badger State northeast of Waugoshance Light, and went down in about 20 minutes. The crew was rescued and dropped off at Mackinaw, where they later caught a ride back to Milwaukee. The collision was reported to be “just forward of the cat-head”, which matches the apparent damage on this newly discovered wreck when she was explored and photographed by Ken Merryman in 2021.  We thank Ken for providing the location for this new site, and for the 3D models of this and other area shipwrecks.  A study of our track lines show we only missed spotting this wreck on sonar last season by about 50 ft, as we were installing other moorings.

Present Condition

The wreck is sitting upright on the bottom, with the cabin and wheel intact, and masts and cross-trees laying across the decks and over the side and bow.  The starboard anchor is still in place, the jib-boom is broken off, likely in the collision or when she struck bottom.  The hatch covers are in place but are deteriorated enough to allow you to peek through, and the yawl-boat is on the bottom off the stern.

This is a new site, although it appears that it may have been visited by other divers in years past.  PLEASE do not damage the wreck – don’t try to force entry into tight openings, or move artifacts around. Just look and take photos, nothing more.  PLEASE do NOT touch the hatch covers, they will break easily.  The cabin skylight is open, but just look inside, do not try to enter the cabin and root around.  There is a bottle on the bottom off the port side, below the mast – let’s leave it there undisturbed.

Mooring Buoy Status

We have reinstalled the mooring buoy to a helix anchor located off the port side aft, on May 11, 2024.   The mooring is only about 15 ft from the hull so you should have no trouble finding the wreck.  Again, please avoid contact with this wreck as much as possible – we’ve all seen how the Sandusky has been broken down over the years due to diver contact.  We took video of the site when installing the mooring, and the mooring will be removed again if things are disturbed too much or artifacts go missing.  Just look, and take photos or video, please.

Photos of the Dolphin

  • dolphin-6205-at-dock
  • dolphin-bow-2024-jeremy-bidwell
  • dolphin-by-ken-merryman
  • 2021-0930-dolphin-e-closeup