Straits of Mackinac Shipwreck Preserve


Depth: 70′ to 84′
Dimensions: 110′ x 26′ x 9′
Cargo: Grain, from Chicago for Buffalo
Cause of Sinking: Stress of weather (gale winds)
Built: 1848, Sandusky, Ohio
Date Lost: September 20th, 1856 (some reports say Sept. 18)
Construction: Wood, Two-Masted Brig (foremast square-rigged)
Propulsion: Wind
Skill Level: Intermediate to Advanced

Shipwreck: N45° 47.959′  W084° 50.249′

Mooring:    N45° 47.978′   W084° 50.248′


Built in 1848 in Sandusky OH, the brig Sandusky is the oldest know shipwreck in the Preserve frequented by divers. She was bound from Chicago to Buffalo with a load of grain when she sank in September 1856.  A violent gale sprang up on the northern end of Lake Michigan, catching the Sandusky in the Straits. The side-wheeler Queen City attempted to rescue three of the crew that clung to her masts that extended above the waves. The Queen City was unsuccessful and these men were lost with the rest of the crew.

Present Condition

The Sandusky’s hull sits intact in 85′ of water, tipped slightly to port, five miles west of the bridge.  The decks are collapsing in places, but there are a number of interesting artifacts on and around the wreck.  A topmast reaches from the port rail to the bottom, the centerboard winch, bilge pumps, and windlass all remain, and a scroll figurehead adorns her bow below the intact jib-boom.  This figurehead is a replica of the original, which was found mostly removed and was later recovered with State permission.  The original figurehead can be viewed in the Straits Shipwreck Museum at Old Mackinac Point Light, Mackinaw City.  We ask that divers not touch or disrupt any of the artifacts, as the Sandusky is showing signs of severe wear and damage.

Mooring Buoy Status

The lighted buoy was reinstalled on May 5, 2024.

The mooring is about 20′ off the port side aft, and a small line guides divers to the rail.   Mooring is available from late-May to mid-September, the moorings make for easier location, safer diving and protect shipwrecks from damage from anchors and hooks.

Photos of the Sandusky

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